Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

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Adequate and Equitable

  • Adequacy Gap, Equity Failure: Kentucky's School Transportation Funding

    Transportation funding is not the biggest injustice in Kentucky school finance, but it is probably the easiest one to prove. Here comes a short demonstration of how last year’s funding was $225 less per pupil than needed, with the impact on individual students ranging from over $300 to under $100 depending on where those students lived. TRANSPORTATION FUNDING IS NOT ADEQUATE $360.4 million was the cost to transport all bus riders during the 2017-2018 school year. $225.5 million of that cost was met by state funding. $134.9 million was, therefore, the amount by which Kentucky transportation funding was inadequate. Often, there is room for big debate about what amount will provide adequate funding, but in this case, the proof is much simpler. For transportation, the General Assembly itself set the formula for deciding what is needed, and the $360.4 million cost was calculated by the Department of Education those exact rules. The $225.5 million is straight from the General Assembly’s budget legislation for the 2016-2018 biennium, and that means the $134.9 million is simple subtractions to prove the student need that went unmet. TRANSPORTATION FUNDING IS NOT EQUITABLE The unfunded $134.9 million could have meant a gap of $225 per pupil all across the state, but it wasn’t handled that way. Instead, the losses varied dramatically depending on where students lived. $300 or more per pupil was denied to students in 15 Kentucky districts, all of them rural counties. $100 or less was denied to students in 16 districts, all of them independent districts named for their cities and towns. In between, $200 to $299 was denied to students in 105 additional districts, and $100 to $199 was denied to students in 37 districts. Below is a look at the districts that lost the most and the least money per student, and the impact on every district statewide can be seen in this short report. A BIT MORE EXPLANATION Why are there differences? The more rural the district and the more spread out the students, the more transportation costs. When the department hands out the cuts, it takes the same percentage from each district’s need. That means that the more a district needs, the more they take away. Why doesn't the Department take the same amount for each student? State law says to hand out the cuts on a “pro rata” basis and the Department interprets that to mean the same percent (and therefore different dollar amounts) from each district. Why isn’t taking more from those who need more unconstitutional? There isn’t a good answer there. On the facts above, the method violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and the requirements of Rose v. Council for Better Education. Accordingly, it looks like the Department would be acting lawfully as well as justly if it made the same cut per pupil to every district. Of course, the General Assembly has the ultimate responsibility here, and they would be acting lawfully as well as fairly if they provided the adequate funding required by its own formula. Short of that, the legislature could fix the inequity by directing the Department to make the cuts match per pupil rather than by the current pro rata method. THE BOTTOM LINE Kentucky transportation funding is not adequate or equitable, and both failings are easy to demonstrate. For districts faced with these shortfalls, there is no option of not providing transportation, so these funding gaps are likely handled by spending less on books and other learning materials or less on teachers and other staff. Kentucky needs to do better. MORE INFORMATION This short Prichard report shows the funded and unfunded transportation costs for each district. All the numbers used here come from the Department of Education’s final 2017-18 SEEK files, with each district’s needed 2017-18 funding shown as “Un-prorated Transportation” in the Data file and the funding actually received shown as the “Adjust for Transportation” in the Summary file.
  • A Fresh Look At SEEK Funding

    Kentucky K-12 education runs on a little under $8 billion a year, and the SEEK formula, combining state and local dollars, handles nearly $5 million of that total. Here’s the Prichard Committee’s new flashcard-based approach to visualizing how that crucial formula works. It offers quick-moving access to the four major steps of how SEEK is designed to equalize funding to school districts and to key concerns about how the formula is working now.
  • Final budget's early childhood investment not nearly enough to support the cost of quality

    Recent blog posts have covered the budget’s impact on both K-12 and postsecondary education.  The state budget also significantly impacts the ability of public preschool and private childcare to provide critical services to Kentucky’s youngest learners.
    The Prichard Committee’s 2017 report – Building Blocks: The Kentucky Early Childhood Cost of Quality Study – estimated the level…

  • Cuts to financial aid, postsecondary institutions will have significant impact on students and campuses

    With the 2018 legislative session now fully in the books, it’s time to review in full what happened to funding for postsecondary education in the enacted state budget and its potential impacts.  Over the next two years, total funding for both state financial aid and institutional funding will see declines of 2.5%.  For Kentucky’s public…

  • Pattern Continues – Enacted budget includes cuts to financial aid, postsecondary institutions

    Under the budget passed by the General Assembly this week, state funding for postsecondary education will be cut over the next two years, with total biennial decreases of 2.5% for financial aid resources and for institutional funding. This continues the pattern of state disinvestment in Kentucky’s postsecondary institutions that has persisted since 2008. Since that…