- On Sept. 3, State Budget Director John Hicks asked state agencies to submit plans for an 8% reduction in the current fiscal year, which started July 1.
- The Office of State Budget Director asked that the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky funds – the main source of funding for K-12 education in the state – be exempt from the reduction.
By Jacob Perkins
Leadership from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) presented the department’s preliminary draft budget reduction plan to the General Assembly’s Budget Review Subcommittee on Education on Oct. 21.
On Sept. 3, State Budget Director John Hicks asked all state agencies to submit plans for an 8% reduction in the current fiscal year, which started July 1. The amount requested from KDE was $43,626,300. KDE submitted its plan to the Office of State Budget Director (OSBD) on Sept. 18.
The request from OSBD, which is in response to the uncertainty of economic forecasts with the continued impacts of COVID-19, asked that the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funds – the main source of funding for K-12 education in the state – be exempt from the reduction. SEEK, debt service and local school district health insurance will be taken off the top before the 8% cut is calculated, said Robin Kinney, KDE associate commissioner in the Office of Finance and Operations.
This is not the first time KDE has been asked to prepare for budget reductions and, historically, the department has tried to mitigate the impact on local districts, Kinney said.
Once the proposed budget reduction plan was received on Sept. 3, KDE proposed additional exemptions from the budget reduction plan request.
“The last place we want the cuts to have an impact is in a service that is going directly to students in the Commonwealth,” Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass said, adding that the department has worked to avoid a proposed plan that would lead to reductions in staff during the pandemic.
The exemptions requested by KDE in its draft budget reduction plan include funds for preschool and secondary vocational education. Kinney said these funds are viewed similarly to SEEK, as they provide direct support services to students, schools and districts. Other exemptions include appropriations directly to the Kentucky School for the Blind and the Kentucky School for the Deaf, and School Food Services required state funds for Federal Match and Maintenance of Effort.
After applying these additional exemptions, the total proposed reduction offered by KDE for consideration KDE is $28,490,800, down from the $43,626,300 proposed by OSBD.
The proposed reduction plan would impact all remaining general fund balances, including operations at KDE. Amounts will be dependent upon the timing of the implementation of the reductions.
“While this is lower than the requested amount from the Office of State Budget Director, this will still directly affect our local school districts and the services that we’re able to provide to them,” said Karen Wirth, KDE’s budget director.
For example, if the reduction is necessary, technology offers of assistance that go to Kentucky’s school districts from $21 per average daily attendance (ADA) down to $17 per ADA.
Offers of assistance is a state-level funding stream for education technology that provides assistance to local districts in operations, maintenance, replacement of devices and new technologies.
“This is a significant cut in offers of assistance,” Wirth explained. “That is going to affect different areas of operations, which could be district staff, technology staff, support that they offer to schools in their districts and keeping our students and our staff with devices that are adequate, which is especially important during this pandemic.”
Another area that would be impacted by this reduction is Family Resource Youth Service Centers (FRYSC). FRYSCs enhance students’ abilities to succeed in school, successful transition into school, academic achievement and transition into adult life, Wirth said.
FRYSCs provide services to students and their families, including after-school child care, family literacy services, health services, family crisis and mental health counseling, substance abuse assistance and career exploration counseling.
The reduction would result in a loss of funds appropriated to KDE and transferred to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). At the beginning of the fiscal year, 50% of FRYSC program funds are transferred to CHFS from KDE. Any reduction will be taken from the remaining appropriation, Wirth said.
“We all know the importance that FRYSCs play in our schools and in our districts,” Wirth said. “A reduction to FRYSCs, whether it be at the KDE level or the CHFS level, is going to affect students, it’s going to affect families and the communities.”
Subcommittee Co-Chair Rep. James Tipton (R-Taylorsville), said the cuts to FRYSC are the most “troubling” aspect of the proposed budget reductions.
“Talking to my local school officials, they are telling me that they are seeing more students coming in with emotional difficulties due to the isolation of COVID and just more challenges with mental health,” he said.
“Obviously, these support services are critical. I know cuts have to be made somewhere. Hopefully it won’t come to that and we can find some funds somewhere else.”