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Perspective: Investing In Education Pays Off For All

Kentucky has the opportunity now to improve every element of its future

By Mark Green

Education funding can do more to improve Kentucky’s quality of life than anything. With benefits too many to list, the overarching outcome is that it makes nearly all our common problems better while making the common good … even better.

The very good news is that with the state’s finances in the best condition ever, the key political strategy during the 2024 General Assembly session is how much to increase education funding.

The education funding discussion today focuses primarily on increasing teacher pay, and appropriately so. School districts across Kentucky and most states can’t find enough people to take the positions they have for what the job pays.

Neighboring Indiana and Tennessee, both states with very conservative governments, have just given teachers large pay increases. Kentucky needs to at least keep pace. Better yet, surpass what the neighbors have done lest we come up short in the competition to improve our workforce.

It is important to understand that it will take time to see the benefits of increased education funding. It may take a decade or a generation to see changes in higher education attainment, more job and business formation, rising incomes, economic growth that creates wealth, less crime, and lower public costs for law enforcement, judicial and correction systems. And the metrics won’t power upward in a straight line.

It would be difficult to design a system with more human complexity than public education, with literally every segment of society included and all the social tasks and functions we have tacked onto it.  As with any process that involves our imperfect fellow man, inefficiency, waste and fraud are bound to occur—and should then be addressed and dealt with. But don’t lose sight of the goals and benefits.

Political attacks on education are misguided and damaging. Better education outcomes benefit us all. Everyone shares in the winnings of higher incomes, more wealth, more innovation, lower crime and less cost to fight it.

Education funding is good business. And good for business, literally.

But like most of government and public services processes, much of our education system is not exactly a business; the goal is to provide a public service efficiently rather than make a profit.

Kentucky is at a historic point where it has the resources to invest in its future as well as provide for the needs of the present. The bigger the investment, the bigger the return and the better our future. There will be ample credit and political reward to claim and distribute. It’s a win-win.

Making education funding into some political football is a mistake. Education funding will go not to anyone’s political opponent but to our fellow Kentuckians, who are putting their life energies into helping us all have a better commonwealth.

The 2024 General Assembly session can and should be a class act. Tomorrow’s Kentuckians are counting on it.