Governor’s broadband proposal a good start in moving Kentucky forward
Strategic long-term investment in education needs support for future economy
Kentucky has made impressive progress in education over the last generation. Unfortunately, as shown in our 2020 Big Bold Future Annual Rankings Report, we have hit a plateau and are moving backwards in some key areas – from preschool to postsecondary – with persistent gaps for those historically underserved. These plateaus were seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, nearly one year since many students have seen the inside of a classroom, we now face learning loss like never seen before.
The Kentucky General Assembly must recommit to the hard work, investment, collaboration, and belief that we can move into the top tier of all states in education achievement as we move out of the pandemic.
All Kentucky families need to have the opportunity to live, work, and learn online. The Prichard Committee sounded warning bells last May that a greater broadband infrastructure was needed to move Kentucky from its bottom 10 ranking among the states in high-speed internet access.
We were pleased to see Gov. Andy Beshear’s budget request for $50 million to fund last-mile broadband coverage. We hope this can be the start of a bold push for Kentucky to be a gigabit state and unlock our full digital potential, and that the Kentucky General Assembly agrees to invest substantially in broadband so that no Kentuckians are left behind. A clear near-term state plan supported by both the Governor and Kentucky General Assembly is needed to move our state forward.
We are encouraged to see the Governor indicate increased investment in early childhood through postsecondary by including the following:
- Support for preschool in disadvantaged areas
- $1,000 raises for school teachers and staff
- Restoration of the teacher loan forgiveness program
- Increases for the SEEK formula funding public K-12 schools as well as for textbooks and school technology
- $17 million for Kentucky postsecondary institutions and an expansion of the Work Ready Scholarship to serve thousands more students.
- A critical $50 million down payment on last-mile broadband
One area we did not hear about in the Governor’s speech was child care – which is so critical to ensuring our youngest get a strong start and families can successfully return to work. Having lost half of Kentucky’s child care providers over the last six years, Kentucky must be mindful about increasing support for this critical part of the early childhood ecosystem.
These are all important priorities, and we look forward to digging deeper into the details and working with the Governor and General Assembly ensure that the necessary investments make it through the process this session to ensure the jumpstart to our Big Bold Future.