Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

A SEEK Formula Explainer (Updated)

The SEEK formula is the main source of K-12 education funding for Kentucky students. SEEK is short for Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, and the formula works by combining state and local dollars, in four main steps.

Discussion of SEEK has been heating up in recent weeks, with concerns about the formula’s adequacy and equity, including important recent coverage by WEKU and WFPL. And with the General Assembly due to start budget work in two months, the topic is sure to stay in the news.

To contribute to the discussion, we’ve updated the Prichard Committee’s short SEEK explainer.  The report shows the four main steps of formula with graphics and short (seriously, we promise, they’re short) explanations of how each step works for districts in different financial situations.

For example, Step 1 is a base guarantee that each district will have $4,000 per student. Districts contribute by raising 30¢ per $100 of taxable property, and since districts vary widely in their assessed property values, contributions are smallest from the least wealthy districts and larger from the wealthier ones. The chart above illustrates how that works, including how in Step 1 all districts end up with matching funding per student.

In three more steps, districts receive “add-on” dollars for students with added needs, have the option of getting state equalization dollars if they raise taxes for “Tier 1,” and can also go beyond Tier 1 to raise unequalized dollars in “Tier 2.”

We’re also included four main concerns about how the formula has worked in recent years, demonstrating each issue with some simple dollar figures:

  • The base guarantee has not kept up with the cost of living
  • The base guarantee relies more and more on local contributions
  • Transportation add-on funding is far below the state’s own estimate of transportation costs
  • Local Tier 2 revenue is an increasing (and increasingly unequal) part of total SEEK funding

Our SEEK explanation is designed to inform concerned citizens and equip them to follow and join in on discussions of how we can fund schools that equip Kentucky’s rising generation for full success. You can download your copy here, and we’d love to hear your thoughts and question.