Kentucky General Assembly makes gains on Big Bold Ask in 2021 session
The General Assembly completed the 2021 legislative session Tuesday night, having spent the final two days considering vetoes by the Governor and negotiating a plan for the over $2 billion Kentucky is to receive in American Rescue Plan stimulus funds. The passage of House Bill 192, the revised state budget, was the key focus this session. It reflects a spending plan still impacted by the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic on the state’s financial resources, as well as what the ultimate effect will be of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan recently passed by Congress. Despite fears of possible budget reductions due to the economic impacts of COIVD-19, lawmakers were able to hold current spending levels intact and make strategic investments in critical areas – including education.
The overall budget holds spending in check while also avoiding any significant cuts. Key progress was made in strategic areas of education and broadband access that put one foot forward on Kentucky’s path to a Big Bold Future and align with Prichard Committee’s Big Bold Ask. We are thankful for the continued attention given to investments Kentucky’s students, families and schools and hope the progress made this session is but the beginning of a renewed strategy to put our human capital at the center of a Big Bold Future.
- Lawmakers made a down payment on building a better child care infrastructure by investing $12 million in state General Funds to support a $2 per child/per day increase in child care assistance (CCAP) for working families. This came via HB 405 – a supplemental appropriations bill that contains numerous and miscellaneous provisions cleaning up or making additional appropriations not otherwise in the budget. This makes progress on our Big Bold Ask for child care assistance and signals the General Assembly is beginning to show commitment to this critical issue.
- In the final version of HB 382, lawmakers included $140 million in state General Funds for full-day Kindergarten. This investment reflects significant progress on our Big Bold Ask for K-12 education. As most school districts already fund full-day kindergarten with local dollars, we hope that this additional investment is used strategically by school leaders to advance critical priorities such as increasing reading and math proficiency by the 3rd grade.
- House Bill 192 includes increases for both state financial aid programs to support students, as well as increases directly to institutions making progress on our Big Bold Ask for postsecondary education.
- A $9 million increase in College Access Program (CAP) grants in FY 2021 and $8 million in FY 2022. CAP is the state’s largest need-based financial aid program serving low-income students.
- $1 million for Teacher Scholarships in FY 2022. This program had been unfunded in prior budget and its important to see supports for teachers reflected going forward.
- Postsecondary institutions received a $41.5 million increase in FY 2022, equivalent to a 4.8% increase. Over half of this increase is to support participating colleges and universities’ fixed allocation contribution to public pension system, with additional funds also allocated through the performance-based funding formula.
- HB 320 makes a substantial investment in Kentucky’s broadband infrastructure – appropriating $250 million in federal funds for the broadband deployment fund. Ensuring adequate internet to all Kentuckians is a precursor to our Big Bold Future and a must for equitable participation in education, the economy and health care. Lawmakers added an additional $50 million to this investment via HB 382 targeted specifically to “economic development opportunities for commercial and industrial customers.”
- HB 556 passed late on the final day of session and included numerous miscellaneous appropriations including substantial funds for school facilities. These investments included $127 million in federal funds for the School Facilities Replacement and Renovation Fund and $75 million in state General Funds for local area vocational center renovations.
Work Still to be Done
Two pieces of legislation that reflected the recommendations of our Task Force on Teacher Preparation & Professional Learning did not ultimately pass this session, but made progress in advancing the types of ideas and innovations necessary to impact our youngest students and increase reading and math proficiency in the 3rd grade. We will continue to work on these issues with education partners before next session to build the necessary will around adequate teacher supports to impact student success.
- House Bill 271, along with a $1 million appropriation in the budget, would have created the Kentucky Early Entry Initiative, a partnership with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and a proven way to strengthening teaching and learning for Kentucky’s young students.
Senate Bill 115, the Read to Succeed Act, would have improved upon Kentucky’s long-standing efforts in early literacy: including diagnostic assessments and screening, intervention and student supports, and family engagement – including at-home learning strategies. The bill would also have strengthened teacher preparation and professional development relative to early literacy, ensuring critical resources get to schools and students most in need of support.