I talked to you recently about the equalization nickel for public school facilities, along with the increase in SEEK and teacher salaries, all found in the 2014-2016 state Executive Branch budget approved by the General Assembly. But there’s more.
We provided $372.3 million next fiscal year and $380.5 million in fiscal year 2016 for the KTRS employer match for qualified local school district employees, and provided $672.7 million in fiscal year 2015 and $686.1 million in fiscal year 2016 for health insurance coverage for local school district employees.
We recommended funding of the Kentucky Education Technology System at $19.3 million next fiscal year and $23 million in fiscal year 2016. (Those funds include $800,000 in 2016 for the Statewide IT Academy.)
We provided an additional $12.9 million in fiscal year 2015 and $26 million in fiscal year 2016 for Flex Focus funds for extended school services, professional development, and Safe Schools. And we provided an additional $3 million each fiscal year for the College and Career Readiness Program for additional staff at vocational and technical schools, among other appropriations.
What’s more, we recommended $16.7 million in each year for instructional resources for our schools, maintained funding for the Kentucky School for the Deaf and Kentucky School for the Blind, and provided an additional $1 million for the Kentucky Education Collaborative for State Agency Children.
An additional $800,000 in fiscal year 2015 and $1.2 million in fiscal year 2016 for the AdvanceKentucky program was also included, as was $250,000 in General Fund support next fiscal year for planning of a Regional Collaborative Career Academy being developed by five school districts.
Last, but certainly not least, we included an additional $18.7 million in fiscal year 2016 to expand preschool to four year olds whose family income falls within 160 percent of the federal poverty level.
Expanded preschool is an issue near and dear to many of your hearts, I know, and something that many of our retirees and current educators have pushed for enthusiastically. Research suggests that each dollar invested on pre-kindergarten programs returns $60 to $300 over a child’s lifetime. So, while the expansion to 160 percent of the poverty level from the current threshold of 150 percent will cost the state some money, it will also give over 4,000 additional Kentucky children the chance for success later in life, and that will help all of Kentucky economically in the years to come.
Now, let’s review for a moment some of the funding placed in the next budget for Kentucky postsecondary education.
The 2014-2016 state budget as passed into law maintains the current level of General Fund support for the College Access Program at $58.8 million, maintains General Fund support for the Kentucky Tuition Grant Program at $31.7 million, and maintains funding for the Teacher Scholarship Program and National Guard Tuition Assistance Program at $1.7 million and $4.9 million respectively. It also fully funds KEES (the merit scholarships earned by Kentucky high school students).
The budget also provides an additional $750,000 in state funds each year of the next biennium for the College Access Program (CAP) and Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG) program. And it restores one percent of the 2.5 percent base reduction to all postsecondary institutions that had been proposed by the Executive Branch at the start of the session.
I have heard many claims of dysfunction and gridlock at the State Capitol, and sometimes that is true. But I think our work last session shows those claims do not always hold water.
We were able to come together from across the aisle to pass a budget and include provisions that really support our teachers, our retirees, and public schools at all levels.
I want to thank all the educators in my district for their work, and just say that what you do or have done for the lives of Kentucky’s children matters. It is the foundation of the future of our Commonwealth, and it is a good one.
Information provided by Brent Yonts
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