The Kentucky General Assembly is due to finish the biennial budget for the Commonwealth any day now. The budget is the most significant policy document passed by lawmakers every two years that signals the priorities of the Bluegrass state in setting a course for the future.
I am sad to say that the budget proposed by Governor Bevin and the Kentucky Senate is disappointing when it comes to education with $300 million in cuts to colleges, universities as well as primary and secondary education.
Kentucky has made great strides in education. Thanks to significant investments in education over the past 20 years, Kentucky has moved from the bottom of nearly every national education ranking to the top tier of states. Kentucky has one of the highest graduation rates in the country, ranking 10th overall according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Kentucky has also had much positive momentum in higher education with increased production of bachelor degrees and expanding enrollments in community and technical colleges.
A failure to prioritize and invest in our most precious resource—our people--will jeopardize the success that we have had over the past 20 years.
Kentucky now ranks sixth worst among states in cuts to its core K-12 education funding formula. Our inflation adjusted cuts to higher education rank among the worst in the country. For example, the University of Kentucky is now funded at the same level it was in 1998.
Much of the focus in Frankfort has been to provide adequate funding for Kentucky’s ailing pension system. I credit the Governor and legislature for their commitment to fixing this issue. But starving education funding through austerity is not good public policy.
The Kentucky House passed a responsible budget that funded education and paid a larger share of money toward the pension than the Governor recommended while incurring less debt. This demonstrates that it can be done.
I urge leaders in Frankfort to invest in the future of Kentucky by simply funding education from preschool through postsecondary.