As Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS), I go to work every day determined to make sure that 640,000 students, across the Commonwealth’s 171 school districts, can be at their best in and outside the classroom. Making that dream a reality is the driving force behind everything that we do at KASS. That work is now more important than ever, especially in light of the pandemic, unprecedented natural disasters and an economic crisis that has turned many of our students’ and their families’ lives upside down – not to mention forced countless businesses across the Commonwealth to close as a result.
So, I was pleased to hear recently that the General Assembly shares my concerns and is focused on closing the gap in our state’s decades-long, chronically underfunded education system. The Kentucky House of Representatives took an important first step in rectifying that wrong by passing the 2022 state budget (House Bill 1). I applaud our state representatives for their efforts thus far, including support for full-day kindergarten, career and technical education funding, restoration of professional development and additional resources for schools, teachers and faculty. However, the work to guarantee high-quality education that equips every student with the tools and skills to create a brighter future for themselves and their community – no matter the zip code – continues.
To paraphrase Stephen Foster, ‘the sun shines bright’ on Kentucky, but KASS knows that we can build an even brighter tomorrow for the Commonwealth by investing in the proven strategies of today. That is why I urge the Kentucky Senate to add three common sense, common ground reforms to House Bill 1 that would strengthen the piece of legislation and position the state as a national leader (once more) in the delivery of public education.
First, fully fund transportation so that students can safely get to and from school as opposed to worrying if and when they’ll get picked up by the bus. Next, increase per-pupil SEEK funding, because we are investing less per student currently (indexed for inflation) than we did over three decades ago. In fact, as drafted, House Bill 1 allots $500 less in per-pupil funding as compared to the 1990 statutory SEEK base. Finally, give school districts more freedom by providing the much-needed resources and flexibility to help superintendents, their boards and district teams ensure students, teachers, and staff members succeed at school, work, and in the community.
All of us – no matter our political persuasion – want to see our students excel academically, professionally and personally. House Bill 1 has the real potential to make it happen in the not-too-distant future. Thereby, building a stronger Kentucky and empowering the next generation of great leaders.
We just need lawmakers to do what is best for our kids, teachers and public schools and include the KASS-backed Kids First Kentucky priorities outlined above in House Bill 1.
The time to act is now. Our students, families, businesses and communities big and small are counting on our elected officials to get it right. Go to www.kidsfirstky.com for more information, including ways you can help!
Dr. Jim Flynn is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.