A new report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that Kentucky has cut its school funding drastically — the 11th worst in the country — since the onset of the 2008 recession.
The nonpartisan think tank found that Kentucky’s per-student investment in K-12 schools was cut by 11.4 percent from 2008 to 2015 when inflation is factored in. Though school funding through the state’s SEEK program was given a slight increase in this year’s budget and has remained nearly flat since 2008, Kentucky’s per-student spending is $561 below what it was before the recession when taking inflation into account.
“A well-educated workforce is critical to economic growth in Kentucky,” said Ashley Spalding of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a local economic think tank. “We need greater investment in schools to support the state’s economic growth and ensure that our children receive the education they need to succeed in life.”
Funding for education has been one of the main points of contention in Kentucky’s General Assembly over the past several years, as shrinking revenues after the economic collapse required dramatic cuts all across state government.
While legislators such as Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, have advocated for comprehensive tax reform in recent years to boost the state’s revenue, most among both parties have been reticent to jump into the politically dangerous territory. Many Democrats are reluctant to support legislation increasing taxes due to the political consequences, and most Republicans say they will only support tax reform if it is “revenue neutral,” meaning there would not be any additional money to spend on education or other priorities.
Most of the recommendations from Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson’s tax reform commission of 2012 — which would raise an estimated $659 million in additional revenue each year — have been ignored in the last two sessions in Frankfort.