An outline of Kentucky with the words KDE NewsOfficials from the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Office of Finance and Operations met with the Legislative Research Commission’s (LRC) School Funding Task Force during its first meeting on June 14.

KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney, and Chay Ritter, director of the department’s Division of District Support, provided the task force with an overview of Support Education Excellence in Kentucky funding (SEEK) – the primary source of funding for Kentucky’s school districts.

The SEEK funding program is a formula-driven allocation of state-provided funds to local school districts which considers as part of the allocation funding for transportation costs, low-income students and special needs students as reported by districts.

Kinney and Ritter walked the group through the various aspects of the funding model, including the formation of SEEK as part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act and district requirements under KRS 157.350.

When determining SEEK funding for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, districts were allowed flexibility in Senate Bill 177 (2020) to choose whether they wanted to submit their 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 school year attendance data for calculations. For the 2021-2022 school year, schools will resume taking attendance for funding purposes, meaning SEEK will return to its normal formula, which is awarded based on attendance data, Kinney said.

Following the presentation, Kinney called on task force members to consider providing additional funding to the department for software upgrades that would allow for easier implementation of any potential SEEK changes.

The task force also received a preview of the LRC’s Office of Education Accountability’s Report on School Funding, which will be finalized and presented to the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee in October.

“This study will examine how SEEK and SEEK transportation funding is distributed to districts,” said Bart Liguori, OEA’s research division manager. “ … The study will also include how other state’s distribute education funding.”

The results from the study will help inform the work of the School Funding Task Force, Liguori said.

Established under House Bill 405 (2021) and consisting of members from the Kentucky General Assembly, the School Funding Task Force will review Kentucky’s current K-12 funding mechanism and how it compares with models developed by other states. Any recommended changes developed by the group to ensure the equitable and efficient funding of the Commonwealth’s public schools relating to SEEK will be submitted to the LRC by Dec. 1.

The School Funding Task Force will meet again July 19.