Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai, right, and Budget and Financial Management Division Director Charles Harman present the biennial budget request to the Kentucky Board of Education. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 8, 2013

Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai, right, and Budget and Financial Management Division Director Charles Harman present the biennial budget request to the Kentucky Board of Education.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 8, 2013

By Matthew Tungate

Restoring educational funding to pre-recession levels is the top legislative priority of the Kentucky Board of Education, members decided at their meeting last week.

The challenge, according to Tracy Goff Herman, the Kentucky Department of Education’s legislative liaison, is that state revenues are still lower than in 2009. She said she has not seen much legislative support for  two proposed solutions aimed at increasing state revenue: revising the state’s tax laws or allowing expanded gaming – both of which Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has endorsed as ways to increase funding for schools.

“We’re basically fighting with other agencies for a bigger piece of the pie, and it’s a pretty small pie as it is,” Herman said.

Board members will decide at their meeting in December whether they want to endorse any measure for increased revenue –a move Associate Commissioner Kevin Brown said he could not remember the board doing in the past decade.

Herman said other educational organizations are deciding the best methods for getting schools more funding.

“It’s like asking your dad for the car keys on Saturday night,” she said. “What strategy is going to get him to give you the car keys?”

Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai said the Kentucky Department of Education has six budget priorities:

  • Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK)
  • flexible focus funds (professional development, including a focus on the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System; textbooks/digital content; preschool; safe schools; and extended school services)
  • technology
  • college- and career-readiness
  • district turnaround support
  • capital budget projects for the Kentucky School for the Blind and Kentucky School for the Deaf.

The SEEK funding request is for $3,866 per student, which would require an additional $60 million in FY 2015 and $90 million in FY 2016 over current funding levels.

Board member Karem reminded the board, “All this does is restore us to the numbers of ’09.”

During the meeting, the board also heard how statewide results of the Unbridled Learning for All assessment and accountability system compared to state targets. While noting growth in college- and career-readiness and graduation rate, among other areas, Holliday said he is concerned about scores for 3rd-grade reading, 6th- and 7th-grade mathematics, and among minority and low-income, or gap, students.

Holliday said he will ask groups working on increasing proficiency and gap scores to develop new strategies.

“I think this is an early warning signal, and I don’t want to wait three years and go, ‘Woe is me, we should have done something about it,’” he said.

During the meeting, the board reiterated its support for the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) and the Next-Generation Science Standards.  Holliday told the board that KDE is moving forward with implementing the science standards but will not begin testing students on the new standards until at least 2016, citing funding, district capacity and the time it takes to develop new tests.  He emphasized that the state continues its support of the Next-Generation Science Standards and their incorporation into the KCAS.

In other business, the board:

  • approved the commissioner’s recommendation that the Robertson County school district be designated as “state-assisted”
  • approved changes to 704 KAR 3:305 governing minimum high school graduation requirements to clearly define what’s required for early graduation. Under the regulation, half of the base SEEK funding for the student’s senior year would go to the district; half would be available to the student as a college scholarship providing he or she meets the requirements.
  • approved revisions to 704 KAR 7:125 that should result in clearer guidance to local districts in the area of attendance reporting and implementation of the Kentucky Student Information System
  • approved the Statement of Consideration for 704 KAR 3:035, the Annual Professional Development Plan
  • approved the Statement of Consideration for 702 KAR 1:115, Annual In-service Training of District Board Members
  • approved a resolution in support of Safe Schools Week Oct. 20-26
  • approved a request from the Owsley County school district to waive the list of courses in 704 KAR 3:305
  • gave first reading to revisions to 704 KAR 5:080, Administration Code for Kentucky’s Assessment Program, and 703 KAR 5:070, Procedures for the Inclusion of Special Populations in the State Required Assessment and Accountability System
  • discussed Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday’s annual evaluation
  • heard an update on the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System
  • received a report on the TELL Kentucky survey
  • received a report on the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006

The next Kentucky Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4 in Frankfort.