For Kentucky K-12 education, one question comes first when analyzing state budget proposals: How will the plan affect Kentucky’s biggest funding program, known as SEEK (short for Support Education Excellence in Kentucky)? On February 1, the House approved a committee substitute version of House Bill 6, and this explainer takes on that first K-12 question.

Here’s the twist: the one question can be answered four ways. Comparing current FY 2024 resources to what HB6 offers for FY 2026, one can say:

  1. The SEEK base guarantee per student will rise $255.
  2. State SEEK base funding dollars will drop by more than $119 million.
  3. Total flexible SEEK funding will decline about $6 million (combining base SEEK, SEEK transportation, and Tier 1).
  4. Grand total SEEK funding will rise a bit more than $26 million (combining the flexible dollars, retirement contribution, facilities funding, and other earmarked resources).

Here, I’ll explain each answer in turn. Clarity on these four ways to address the SEEK question can contribute to shared understanding of the budget debates that will now move to the Senate for next action steps.

1. The SEEK base guarantee per student will rise $255

The guarantee per student will increase from the current $4,200 to $4,455. That’s the amount that districts are guaranteed for each student in ADA (adjusted average daily attendance).

2. State SEEK base funding will decline by more than $119 million

Feel free to blink a few times at per student rising while the total declines.

The simplest explanation is the state doesn’t pay the whole per student amount: it only guarantees that districts will end up with those dollars. The heart of the formula is three steps:

  • Districts are guaranteed base funding, calculated by multiplying the per-student amount by district ADA.
  • Districts pay part of the guaranteed base funding, with their share defined as 30¢ per $100 of the assessed value of their taxable property.
  • The state pays the rest of the guaranteed base funding, with the state portion being the guaranteed amount minus the district 30¢ revenue.

The process has a powerful effect on equity in our schools: districts contribute according to their local assets, but the formula guarantees them the same base amount per student whether their resources are lower than state average, close to average, or above average. This formula approach was one of the most important innovations of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

This process also means that in step 1, declining ADA can lower district totals, and in step 2 rising property values can increase the local share. Both changes can result in the state share declining even when the per pupil guarantee is rising.

Both of those other changes are happening. ADA has declined both because Kentucky has fewer school-aged children and because of increasing student absence rates. And property values have increased substantially. Working together, the two trends explain how HB 6 can have a lower total appropriation for base SEEK with an increasing base guarantee per student.

This explanation needs one further element. The SEEK base appropriation also funds add-on amounts based on students with added needs: those eligible for free meals, with identified disabilities, learning English, and receiving home and hospital services. The amount for each student with those needs is tied to the guarantee per student, rising when the guarantee rises. The add-on portion further strengthens equity by adjusting for factors that can result in added student learning costs.

3. SEEK funding with flexibility will decline about $6 million

SEEK can also be understood as more than just the base portion. When I speak of SEEK as Kentucky’s main program for funding K-12 education, I’m thinking of the three line items that provide districts with completely flexible resources. On that understanding, SEEK funding includes:

  • The base discussed above, including the add-ons.
  • Transportation funding, based on a separate calculation that uses student rider counts, distances traveled and other cost factors.
  • A Tier I optional element: districts can voluntarily raise revenue above the 30¢ per $100 and qualify for state equalization that gives them up to 15% more revenue.

In Kentucky law, school districts can use any part of those resources to pay any part of their costs for teaching, learning, and operations. Or, to say it another way, these three flexible parts do not come with “earmarks” requiring districts to account for how each dollar was used to provide a required service. In contrast, other parts of the state education budget do come with strings attached, requiring those dollars to be spent on reading interventions, preschool services, facilities, and other specifics.

Taking the three parts together, total SEEK funding with flexibility will also decline from FY 2024 to FY 2026 under the current HB 6.

The increased transportation funding is a very positive thing. In FY 2026, the appropriation will cover full cost of school transportation for the first time in many years. Resuming full funding is an important element of the Big Bold Ask. It’s a stand-out improvement proposed in the current HB 6.

The transportation increase will balance out some of the decline in SEEK base and Tier 1, but not all of it. Looking at the three lines together, districts stand to receive fewer flexible SEEK dollars in FY 2026 than they are getting in current FY 2024.

These flexible SEEK dollars matter because they are available for any school need. For example, these are the only three state budget line items that can be used to improve districtwide salary scales, recruit new staff, and financially reward current hard-working educators for the extraordinarily challenging work we ask them to take on.

4. Grand total SEEK funding will rise a bit more than $26 million

There’s one more way to talk about SEEK. In state budget bills, the Department of Education has three numbered sections, starting with “1. Support Education Excellence Kentucky.” That section includes the flexible line items just discussed, and it also includes funding that is legally committed to teachers’ retirement, school facilities, and a few smaller items. Here’s a table showing them all.

The grand total will increase by $26.4 million, meaning that the state will spend more in this budget section in FY 2026 than it is planning to spend in the current FY 2024.

A Concluding Note

One question – How will HB 6 affect SEEK? – has four possible answers. Under the House Committee Substitute, the guarantee per student will rise, base dollars will decline, total flexible funding will decline, and the grand total budget section will increase.

Ideally, this explainer will lead readers to ask follow-up questions about what this budget will make possible for Kentucky’s students.

Some of the follow-up questions can be about whether these dollars enable adjustments to the salaries paid to teachers and other education staff. With the flexible dollars are going down, it’s hard to say the bill provides state funding to strengthen those payrolls. That can be true even while we are celebrating the transportation boost and being glad to see the increases for retirement and facilities.

There can be many other questions, and then there should be one essential question beneath all the others: how well will these dollars, in concert with local and federal funds, help Kentucky build a big bold future, both for individual students and for the entire commonwealth? That’s the right puzzle for all of us to consider.


Susan Perkins Weston analyzes Kentucky data and policy, and she’s always on the lookout for ways to enrich the instructional core where students and teachers work together on learning content. Susan is an independent consultant who has been taking on Prichard Committee assignments since 1991. She is a Prichard Committee Senior Fellow.

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