FRANKFORT – Responding to the governor’s refusal to disperse $4.64 million to Kentucky public schools, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rick Rand and House Education Chair Derrick Graham expressed outrage that once again the governor has willfully ignored the law on Wednesday.
At issue is additional funding mandated by law to be released by the governor when schools experience a shortfall in SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding.
However, Rep. Rand discovered that the administration withheld the funds during the August Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting, when he questioned State Budget Director John Chilton about payment to the Department of Education for the shortfall.
Chilton had no response but later followed up with a letter saying the Commissioner of Education had made a request in late February for $4.64 million in SEEK funding, and “the governor did not approve that request.”
“Governor Bevin’s deliberate inaction is inexcusable and causes us to shed light on this matter,” said Rep. Rand. “Adequately funding education is a priority for our caucus, which is why we fought hard throughout the budget session to prevent harm to public education. The General Assembly intended for our districts to receive this funding, but the administration chose not to provide it. Our superintendents, principals, educators and parents deserve to know they were fully funded in the budget bill we passed and that the governor decided not to honor our commitment to schools.”
House Speaker Greg Stumbo agreed and pointed out the irony of Gov. Bevin’s proclamation today that is calling for prayer for students. The proclamation states: “It is incumbent upon us as parents, corporate and community leaders to do everything within our power to protect the students of Kentucky.”
“While I certainly support a call for us to pray for our students, I cannot support any effort that preys on our schools,” Speaker Stumbo said. “This is money that rightfully belongs to them, and withholding it makes it more difficult for them to carry out their mission.”
Chairs of two House education committees also expressed concern about the governor’s refusal to approve the lawful request.
Education Committee Chair Rep. Derrick Graham said, “We’ve made tremendous strides in education by holding true to our SEEK funding formula, so seeing these funds not be distributed to our school districts is troubling. The success of our public education system depends upon our promised investment and our students should not suffer because of the governor’s indifference. We must invest in public education in order to give all of our students an equal opportunity in life.”
Rep. Kelly Flood, chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, agreed. “Praying for our kids matters, but they need action, too. Faith without works is dead, and schools without proper funding will fail to create a better future for our children and a stronger economy for Kentucky.”
House leaders pointed out that the withheld funds could have supported school programs that would have addressed the “extreme challenges” cited in the governor’s proclamation.
The top 10 school systems losing money include the following: 1. Jefferson, $458,163; 2. Fayette, $169,175; 3. Hardin, $129,385; 4. Daviess, $114,656; 5. Meade, $99,530; 6. Oldham, $99,337; 7. Boone, $93,881; 8. Warren, $78,716; 9. Pike, $76,295; 10. Bullitt, $73,620.
The SEEK funding program is an allocation of state-provided funds to local school districts. The formula-based plan includes funding for transportation costs and exceptional students as reported by districts. The appropriation for SEEK is built on forecasted attendance figures. The past two fiscal years the appropriation for SEEK has been underestimated due to differences between forecasts and actual experience. Lawmakers committed to make up the difference for schools by designating the funding gap as a necessary government expense in the state budget.
According to the budget bill, the SEEK adjustment can be up to $10 million and “shall be deemed a necessary government expense and shall be paid from the General Fund Surplus or the Budget Reserve Trust Fund.” Kentucky currently has a projected $319.3 million in reserve with $151.4 million of that amount assigned to a permanent pension fund.