KDE Special Superintendent's Webcast, April 7, 2020

  • Kentucky schools are expected to receive an estimated $193.2 million from funds earmarked within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, as well as some of an estimated $43.8 million in a fund that will be administered by the governor’s office.
  • The General Assembly passed an $11.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2021, opting to budget for only one year rather than the usual two due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 emergency and the uncertainty of future tax revenue.

By Mike Marsee

Kentucky schools and districts could receive more than $200 million in emergency relief funds from the federal government, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) officials told Kentucky’s school superintendents April 7.

Superintendents and finance officers of Kentucky’s 172 school districts learned during a KDE webcast that focused on budget and financial matters about the state’s share of the funds designated for K-12 education under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The district leaders were given an in-depth look at CARES Act allotments and other emergency federal funding that might be available, as well as some elements of the budget for fiscal year 2021 approved by the Kentucky General Assembly.

Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney, who heads KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations, commended districts for prioritizing their students and staff members during the COVID-19 emergency.

“The financial considerations that surround that are secondary, but financial considerations are very important (and) we intend to share with you the knowledge we have right now,” Kinney said.

The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package approved by Congress on March 30, includes $30.75 billion in the Education Stabilization Fund. Almost half of that fund, $13.2 billion, is earmarked for K-12 education in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, and K-12 schools are expected to receive some of the money in the $2.9 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.

Based on estimates by the Congressional Research Service, Kentucky would receive:

  • $193.2 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, at least 90% of which will be distributed to districts based on the Title I funding formula. All Kentucky school districts receive Title I funds, so all districts would receive some of these funds. Kinney said districts could expect to receive about 83% of the amount they received under Title I-A in the 2019 fiscal year. Districts would have broad local authority to use the money, though Kinney cautioned them against using the funds for recurring costs such as salaries.
  • Some of an estimated $43.8 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Governors in each state may use these funds at their discretion to support grants to districts that have been identified as “significantly impacted” by the coronavirus. However, money from that fund also may be used for higher education.

Kinney noted that funds also may be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under authority of a March 13 federal emergency declaration. The deadline for submitting a request is April 13, and Kinney urged districts to complete FEMA’s Request for Public Assistance form even if local officials can’t yet quantify the assistance they need.

“This is not to identify the assistance you need; it’s just to get an application in the queue so they know you might need assistance in future,” she said.

“You may or may not end up qualifying, but we want to make sure you get your name in the hopper by April 13,” Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said.

KDE officials also reviewed key points in the $11.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2021 passed by the General Assembly on April 1.

The legislature usually passes a two-year budget, but opted to budget for only one year due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 emergency and the uncertainty of future tax revenue. Gov. Andy Beshear has the option to issue line-item or full vetoes of the budget; the legislature will reconvene April 14 to consider any vetoes.

In the budget contained in House Bill 352, lawmakers eliminated a planned increase in base funding for K-12 education under the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) formula, as well as proposed pay raises for teachers.

Current SEEK funding levels will not be reduced, remaining at $4,000 per student in the approved budget. SEEK payments for fiscal year 2020 will continue on schedule.

The approved budget does include $7.4 million to fund additional school-based mental health services, specifically by providing full-time equivalent positions for those services. The Kentucky Center for School Safety will develop criteria to determine which districts receive funding in conjunction with the state school security marshal’s office.

That appropriation satisfies school safety requirements of Senate Bill 8 and meets the state’s commitment under Senate Bill 1 (2019).

Districts would be permitted to modify district facility plans without convening a local planning committee for the purpose of security facility upgrades, a move that will save districts time and effort, and $18.2 million is earmarked for those upgrades.

The budget provides for a slight increase in funding for career and technical education and specifies how districts wishing to convert an area technology center into a locally operated center will receive funding for that center for two years.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet also will distribute $8.5 million to reimburse districts for 50% of the purchase cost to replace school buses manufactured in 2001 or earlier. The money comes from a total of $14.7 billion that Volkswagen agreed to spend to settle allegations of cheating emissions.