by Jay Brewer – Dayton, Kentucky Independent School Superintendent
I believe every child in the state of Kentucky deserves the opportunity to be great.
I would like to provide some insight into the impact that the governor’s proposed budget cuts of 4.5% this school year and 9% over the next two years will have on the children of Dayton Independent Schools. Governor Bevin has stated his proposed cuts to education are a mere “9 cents” on every dollar. Framing these cuts in this way could lead one to believe that only “pennies” are being cut from our children. This is far from the truth.
The impact of the proposed cuts will directly impact our ability to educate and support our children. Our Preschool budget of $249,083 per year will be cut in the proposed budget a total of $56,044. With the current research in neuroscience supporting the fact that 90% of a child’s brain develops before age five, we must provide quality early educational programming for all children.
Our Safe Schools budget of $27,745 goes directly to funding a School Resource Officer; that would be reduced by $6,243. These funds, provided by the state, are not enough to fully fund this position. Our Board of Education highly values the safety of our students and staff and already funds this position an additional $10,000 to provide for a police officer to be on our campus during each school day.
Each of our schools qualifies for funding for Family Resource/Youth Service Centers and would be cut $27,037. These centers provide much needed support for families, advocacy for children, and removal of barriers so that all children have an equal opportunity to learn. Currently, our district is sustaining this work with an additional $10,000 a year to support families and children.
Supports for students are being threatened and might be reduced in key areas such as textbooks, professional development, and Gifted and Talented services. Textbooks for students would be cut $5,282, professional development would be cut $2,607, and services for children who qualify as Gifted and Talented would be reduced $4,394. Currently, our district is providing an additional $10,000 above the state allocation to provide part-time services for our Gifted and Talented students.
Extended School Services creates the greatest immediate challenge for our district with proposed cuts totaling $8,022. These mid-year cuts mean that Summer Learning funds must now be used to cover the shortfalls in other areas, thus resulting in no or limited Summer Learning programming for students. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, researched the impact summer learning has on students; he concluded that summer learning experiences are what truly separates our top students from our lowest performers.
Along with the 4.5% mid-year cut and a 9% cut over the next two years, the governor has also proposed that there be no increase to SEEK (state funds per child) funding for the next two years. We have already been handed a mid-year cut to SEEK this school year for a total of $17,000. Expenses for next year will total $120,000 due to mandatory step/rank raises and other increases. In the two year budget Dayton Independent Schools will have to reduce services to children by $240,000 due to no SEEK increase.
This total brings Dayton Independent Schools’ “penny cuts” to a total of $350,000 over a 2.5 year period.
Dayton Independent School students are not alone in being negatively affected by these suggested cuts. All students in Kentucky face this challenge. All students in Kentucky will lose services if these cuts are approved, and these “9 cent” cuts to services for children play out to be millions of dollars.
We should all work collaboratively to honor the expectation of taking care of the next generation by ensuring that their educational needs be met. Children fail when policy makers fail, families fail, and schools fail. We must not fail our children.