Prichard Committee urges investments in all levels of education as Kentucky recovers from the COVID-19 crisis | Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Prichard Committee urges investments in all levels of education as Kentucky recovers from the COVID-19 crisis

Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey sent following letter to members of the budget conference committee urging investments in all levels of education as Kentucky recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. Please urge members of the Kentucky General Assembly to increase education funding now – from early childhood to K-12, to higher education.

Letter to Members of the Budget Conference Committee

Chair Rudy, Chair McDaniel, and Budget Conferees:

Thank you for your continued leadership during this very difficult time.  Sustaining and increasing investment in Kentucky’s system of education – early childhood through postsecondary – is critical to the state’s success in the future, especially now as we will want to support a robust recovery from the current COVID-19 crisis.

This is why we structured a six-year investment plan to phase in increased investment in strategic priorities for education – our Big Bold Ask (details attached).  All of you have received information about this and you know what we are asking for – $1 billion in increased education investments over the next six years.

As the end of the 2020 session nears, I wanted to remind you how increasing education funding now – from early childhood to K-12, to higher education – will be a boon to Kentucky’s economy in the years to come.

The University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research recently produced its 2020 Kentucky Annual Economic Report, which said the United States economy, measured by real GDP, grew above 2% in 2019. Kentucky’s grew at less than half that rate. The reason behind this lagging growth is the state’s low educational attainment rate. Simply stated, to fill the jobs available today and to be the job creators of Kentucky’s future we need more of our citizens completing high-quality, marketable degrees and certificates. To put it bluntly, Kentucky’s low rate of educational attainment is stifling our economy.

In the midst of the crisis that is COVID-19, it’s important to note that in past economic recessions, Kentuckians with the least education were the ones most negatively impacted, and as a result our economic growth has lagged the nation. It is simply imperative for our future prosperity that we not let the current crisis and likely economic downturn keep us from investing in our human capital in such a way that we come out of this crisis positioned to grow stronger and more resilient for the future. Now is not the time to let up on a commitment to increasing the educational attainment of Kentuckians. In fact, now is the time to deepen that commitment and ensure ever-greater progress – and an ability to climb out of the bottom rungs of poverty nationally.

Now is the time for bold leadership that unequivocally invests in our future. 

As the budget conference occurs this week, I wanted to draw your attention to several critical elements we included on our Big Bold Ask and were addressed in part in both the House and Senate versions of the budget.

Early Childhood

The House and Senate took varying approaches to both child care assistance (CCAP) and public preschool.  Both had positives – the House increasing eligibility thresholds; the Senate including partnership grants – but both unfortunately reduced the overall investment in public preschool.  Kentucky will need greater investment in this area – especially now – to ensure districts can maintain preschool services and childcare providers (closed due to the crisis) can reopen and rehire once COVID-19 resolves.  We proposed $24 million for preschool and $92 million for CCAP over the upcoming biennium to increase per child rates and eligibility levels. Kentucky is far behind in providing the financial resources necessary to ensure high-quality services to families that need them.

We ask that the conference committee at least keep funding levels for preschool and childcare on the plus-side of the current base spending levels.  Anything less will endanger provider capacity – especially now.

K-12

While our Big Bold Ask included phased in investment for both full-day kindergarten, transportation funding, and a fund for teaching excellence, these were all in service to helping districts improve the teaching and learning environment.  Research is clear that teaching matters most to student success and Kentucky needs to support the teaching and learning environment both now and in the future. Compensation matters, but so do supports for teacher preparation, high-quality professional learning, and instructional assets. Our Big Bold Ask included $108 million over the biennium to begin phasing in increased investment in these strategic areas.

We ask that the conference committee consider increased investments in systematic state support to develop effective teaching. This could include elements from our proposal including: expanded support for recruiting and retaining diverse teachers, intensive support for new teachers and principals in their first two years in those roles, increased annual stipends for teachers who have earned National Board certification, and competitive grants for district-university collaborations to develop and implement learning initiatives aligned with Kentucky’s academic standards and ambitious goals for student success.

Both the House and Senate also included investments that are necessary and should be in the final budget including: raises for certified and classified staff, increases to base SEEK guarantee, and seed funding innovation in early literacy (a critical priority).

Postsecondary

Both the House and the Senate restored substantial investment in postsecondary education, both direct to institutions (including the performance funding formula) and in student financial aid. These are critical for sustained progress toward Kentucky’s 60% attainment goal by 2030. We need strong institutions across the state and this investment to make progress toward attainment goals for historically underserved groups and enhanced access to higher education for students with financial need.  We ask that the conference committee consider the House’s proposal be the baseline starting point for postsecondary investment.

Thank you again for your continued leadership and attention to these considerations as you finalize the budget for the next two years.  Be well and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

Brigitte Blom Ramsey
President & CEO