Oct. 9, 2013 — “There are lies, damned lies and statistics,” Mark Twain said a century ago.
We quote the great storyteller today because those words best describe what Gov. Steve Beshear and many members of the General Assembly have been saying about public school funding in Kentucky.
In a classic case of self-delusion, state officials have been telling themselves and the public that $1.6 billion in state budget cuts basically has not damaged funding of K-12 school districts.
State spending cuts across the board from child care centers to layoffs of Kentucky State Police officers have been blamed on the economic downtown which started in 2008.
If it is true that the SEEK formula – the major part of state funding – has not been cut then why is Carter County receiving $500 less per student this year than we did in 2008.
Level or flat funding year after year means that a dollar buys less today because of inflation but the “damned lie” of stable funding continues to emerge from Frankfort.
We find it ironic that a new report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows a decline of almost 10 percent in per-student funding from fiscal 2008 until this year.
State appropriations, when adjusted for inflation, show that Kentucky and 33 other states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession started five years ago.
In fact, Kentucky's drop of 9.9 percent (nearly $480 per student) in spending is the 14th heaviest among the states.
The study only addressed major public education funding formulas and did not try to calculate the damage done by slashing professional development, after school tutoring and other student services, textbooks and transportation.
The study shows that school funding is beginning to recover in most of the 34 states showing declines but, sadly, that is not happening in Kentucky.
Instead, we are among 15 states showing less funding per student this year than last year. Perhaps the saddest part of this tale of deception is that our state won’t be able to take advantage of an economic recovery, if and when it happens, because of our antiquated tax system.
That means our recent statewide gains in educational achievement likely will wither and die for lack of adequate funding.
In our view, there is a direct link between diminished funding and the fact that less than half of the state’s elementary schools achieved their state testing goals last spring.
Remember, those kids are the future.