At the same time that new cuts to state funding for education are on the table, a new report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows previous budget cuts have already stretched Kentucky school districts and are hurting classrooms and kids. Further cuts could force even more significant reductions in educational programs and services, layoffs or even school closings.
Through a survey of Kentucky’s school districts and review of other state data, this report provides a first comprehensive look at how past cuts have translated into fewer course offerings, reductions in school-based services, fewer staff and cuts in employee compensation, costs being passed along to parents, fewer instructional days and more.
More specifically, KCEP’s survey of Kentucky school districts found that since 2008:
- 54% of surveyed districts have fewer days in the school calendar.
- 35% of districts have reduced or eliminated art and music programs.
- 30% of districts had special course offerings funded by the district in 2008 that were no longer funded in 2017.
- 25% of districts have reduced career and technical education.
- 35% of districts have begun implementing or increased instructional fees.
- 34% of districts have begun implementing or increased fees for extracurricular activities.
- 42% of districts have reduced student supports such as after school, summer school and intervention/enrichment services.
- 25% of districts are spending less on health services.
- 14% of districts have reduced special education services for reasons related to cost.
- Districts also report reducing staff, being unable to give needed raises and lack of funding for instructional materials such as textbooks — as well has having inadequate transportation funding and unmet facilities and maintenance needs.
“For years now the state has pushed more funding responsibility to local school districts, many of whom have difficulty raising adequate revenue through increasing local taxes,” Ashley Spalding, the report’s author, said. “School districts have already cut staff, reduced program offerings and implemented other cost-cutting measures. More cuts threaten school quality across the state.”
The full report with KCEP’s survey findings provide more detailed information on the impacts of inadequate appropriations on districts. The sample of districts responding to the survey represents more than 74 percent of Kentucky students. The sample is representative in terms of geography, district size and per-student property assessments (a measurement of district wealth). The report also analyzed data from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).
Additionally, the report includes comments made by school districts across the state, highlighting what cuts they have already made, what they could do with more investment and how local tax increases aren’t enough to make up for state funding cuts.