A new report from the Council for Better Education shows that Kentucky’s public education system is below funding levels compared to the national average.
The Adequacy for Excellence in Kentucky funding study is an independent review conducted by education research group Picus Odden & Associates.
The study was funded by the CBE.
Using data gathered between December 2013 and August 2014, the report examines multiple aspects of the Kentucky school finance system and give analysis to comparative states with specific recommendations on how to determine the cost of education in Kentucky.
The study determined three characteristics about Commonwealth's education system: "below average funding, below average teacher salaries, and mixed educational outcomes."
Kentucky's per-pupil funding for the 2012-13 school year ranked 28th in the nation and was behind 3 0f the 7 comparable states.
Those seven comparable states include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
According to the National Education Association, Kentucky spent $10,333 per enrolled student in 2012 versus the national average of $10,938.
CBE President and Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton says Kentucky has been underfunded for years. He says previous additional funding requests were unsuccessful because they didn't give lawmakers a model to base funding on.
“And so the difference this time is that we actually are submitting a model of what successful schools look like in order to make sure all students are proficient for college and careers," said Shelton. "Because in the past we simply studied the SEEK allocation formula which did not determine the amount of investment needed for schools.”
SEEK are state funds allocated to local school districts based on a formula of needs and available resources. Shelton says the study doesn’t factor in SEEK funds in order to represent a model of the average Kentucky school’s needs.
“This study would be as if we would start from scratch and say 'how would you structure a model that would provide the appropriate resources for all schools and for all students?'" said Shelton. "We then cost out that model. So the only reason you would compare it to SEEK is to look at total dollars being spent in education compared to the total dollars in would take to implement this model.”
The report recommends a model that would cost $9.4 billion for the state to implement.
"But this isn't only a state level expense," said Shelton. "Right now, education is funded both locally and at the state level so we looked at this as a total combined investment. That $9.4 billion proposed cost comes from local taxes as well as state level support."
You can read the CBE's 129-page report in full here:
The report shows that Kentucky’s teachers are also underpaid compared to the national average.
In 2012-13, the average teacher salary in Kentucky was $50,326, which was 10.7 percent lower than the national average teacher salary of $56,823.
Shelton says teacher salaries are generally three-quarters of a district’s budget and that if state funding increase so would their compensations.
“In education, generally speaking, about 75 to 85 percent of the money spent is spent on teacher salaries because it’s a very labor-intensive focus and that’s where all the money is spent," said Shelton. "It’s always been that way and so if we had additional funding for schools it would automatically allow for more teachers as well as better compensation.”
The report also notes mixed educational outcomes.
While Kentucky's four-year high school graduation rate generally exceeded the national average over the past five years, it falls in the middle of rates for comparable states.
In the 2009-2010 school year, Kentucky's graduation rate of 79.9 percent trailed behind that of Missouri (83.7 percent), Ohio (81.4 percent) and Tennessee (80.4 percent) but was above West Virginia (78.3 percent), Indiana (77.2 percent), Arkansas (75 percent) and Alabama (71.8 percent.)
Formed in 1984, the Council for Better Education is a nonprofit corporation whose members include 168 of Kentucky's 174 public school districts.