Governor Beshear’s recommended budget for the next two fiscal years aims very high for most elements of the education continuum, calling for Kentucky to make major steps toward a Big Bold Future. The Office of State Budget Director has posted the full plans, and you can also get further detail from our early childhood, P-12 education, and postsecondary budget summaries. Here are just some of the major steps the Governor proposes:
- Universal preschool for Kentucky four-year-olds
- Full day kindergarten
- Full costs of P-12 transportation
- Teaching excellence investments that restore professional development funding, expand stipends for teachers with National Board Certification, and create new institutes to develop teacher capacities to support early learning and social emotional learning
- Institutional funding increases to all Kentucky public two-and four-year institutions (though without a performance funding component)
- Needs based scholarship increases, including $39 million added to the College Access Program and $16 million in new Better Kentucky Promise Scholarships.
These are major steps up in six of the seven investment areas the Prichard Committee identified as Big Bold Ask priorities. For four (preschool, kindergarten, transportation, and needs based aid), these steps could complete the full Ask three years ahead of the requested phase in. For two more (teaching excellence and postsecondary institutional funding), the totals meet the FY 2024 targets in FY 2023.
CCAP (short for the Child Care Assistance Program) stands alone as Big Bold Ask priority not slated for new General Fund resources. CCAP has benefited from important federal dollars recently, but those resources are not lasting revenue streams. The problem has two parts:
- Eligibility. CCAP has long served children with family incomes at or below $160% of poverty. With federal pandemic recovery funding, that threshold has been moved up to 200% of poverty. When those federal dollars end (quite possible sometime in FY 2024), will the added children lose benefits? The Governor’s budget does not call for a General Fund investment to prevent that sudden decline.
- Rates. An FY 2022 General Fund appropriation of $12 million has allowed a $2 per child increase in CCAP rates. The Governor’s budget does not call for continuing that General Fund investment. It does call for $9.6 million in federal relief dollars to be used to continue the $2 addition, which is an important current help that again leaves the question of whether Kentucky will sustain the higher rates when federal supports are no longer available.
This potential for a sudden drop off in which children can receive CCAP and how much CCAP can pay may warrant further discussion. With universal early childhood supports set to grow dramatically in preschool, it’s particularly jarring to think about related supports for child care being so precarious.
With that big caveat, this is shaping up as an exciting year for Kentucky investments, with House Bill 1 proposing big steps and the Governor proposing to go even bigger. House committee work will likely bring further changes to HB 1 in the coming weeks, as will Senate action and conference committee negotiations. As the process continues, it’s important to notice that Kentucky’s strong economy positions us to expect very important revenue growth, making it possible to consider these major steps toward building a Big Bold Future for us all.