Whitesburg KY
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Hurting schools

When the General Assembly passed the state budget last month, the public schools – like everything else – took a hit.

Lawmakers congratulated themselves that the hit wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but there’s not much consolation in that. For starters, every school district in the state lost money for “extended school services,” which includes funds for after-school tutoring. They all lost money for textbooks and professional development. They all lost money for a program called “safe schools” – the way the state helps pay for the education of students who need extra help and a different kind of environment.

Tutoring, books, teacher training and alternative schools are obviously essential parts of any district’s programming. So schools are going to have to figure out how to absorb those costs and keep those items funded.

But that’s just the start of the financial pressure on them. Basic school funding from the state stayed almost flat. Meanwhile, costs are far from flat. The state mandated 1 percent raises for teachers, for example. The costs of utilities and fuel have skyrocketed.

The Warren County schools report they have had to put 49 percent more in their budget for fuel. In Jefferson County, the increase in gas prices will cost an extra $1 million.

The chief financial officer of the Jefferson County Public Schools told the school board last week that the district will have to make $29 million in cuts for the next school year.

Those cuts will come in many forms, from postponing $6 million in renovations, to not keeping up on replacement of the bus fleet, to scaling back on a pilot project and program improvements, to using money in the district’s cash reserve. Other districts are having to do much worse.

In Mercer County, for example, 20 teachers and 22 classified employees got lay-off notices. The school district also decided to end all-day kindergarten. Kindergarteners will go to school just every other day.

Campbell County may contract out the second half of the kindergarten day to save money. That’s in addition to cutting a couple of teachers.

Officials in Hopkins County are still in the midst of letting contracts for next year, but after all the dust settles probably 16 teachers and 30-some classified employees will lose their jobs. Meanwhile, Logan County is cutting some technology education; Oldham County, among other things, is delaying an overhaul of its gifted and talented program. When the chief financial officer of the Lincoln County schools presented a tentative budget to her board, she summed it up by saying, “There’s little doubt that this budget is the worst budget in a long, long time.”

In Frankfort this year, the Republican Senate refused to raise even cigarette taxes. The Democratic House refused to seriously negotiate on reforming the pension system.

And there is an effect when those hundreds of millions of dollars aren’t captured. You can see it in the schools.

– The Courier-Journal, Louisville

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