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Recommendations for revamping public education funding

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A joint task force created to study how Kentucky currently funds public education for grades kindergarten through 12 signed off on nine recommendations to better ensure school districts receive equitable and efficient resources.

“These recommendations are the result of six months of research and input from stakeholders,” said Representative James A. Tipton, who served as House Co-Chair. “I look forward to working with the rest of our colleagues to implement what we can during the 2022 Regular Session as well as plot a way to reach all of our goals as soon as possible. K-12 education already accounts for more than two-fifths of our general fund dollars, and our goal is to make sure that funding is invested effectively and equitably.”

The first recommendation also serves as the biggest change since the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) in 1990. The panel recommends recalculating how Kentucky funds education by measuring how many students are in a school district rather than a student’s daily attendance. While concerns were raised about the change devaluing school attendance, the coalition of lawmakers and education leaders underscored that the cost of education does not change whether a student is there 95 percent of the time or every day.

“This move will not create chronic absenteeism or take accountability away from going to school, but an honest read on the state of the play shows that schools have to focus more on attendance than instruction nowadays,” said Tipton. “Schools exist to educate, and we have truancy laws in place to address attendance issues. Let’s allow teachers to teach and return the emphasis to instruction. This is a momentous decision to make sound investments that best fund education for all students in Kentucky.”

The initiatives laid out by the task force hold fast to the legislature’s commitment to historic investments in education. The recommendations provide full state funding for full-day kindergarten and a slew of wraparound services, such as busing routes, mental health resources, and school resource officers. After a one-time investment of $140 million to fund full-day kindergarten this year, House members have already pre-filed a bill to make this a permanent state expenditure moving forward.

The recommendations also include a slew of regulatory measures that continue an ongoing conversation around the use of public education resources, like exploring how to best inform others about a potential bill’s cost and impact on school districts.

“With decisions like this, there will be some criticism,” the Spencer County Republican continued. “Let us not forget our most important asset here, our children. It is important to remember that the schools with lower average daily attendance typically have more students facing economic disadvantages at home or in their community. We want to level the field, so they receive a more equitable slice of state resources.”

During the 2022 Regular Session, the General Assembly will consider the recommendations presented by the task force. For more information and to view the report, visit the Legislative Research Commission website.

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