Beshear unveils $2B investment in education, including universal preschool and full-day kindergarten

January 11, 2022 | 12:12 am

Updated January 10, 2022 | 9:52 pm

Gov. Andy Beshear

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Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday outlined his budget plan to make a record $2 billion investment in pre-K–12 education, the single-largest investment in this sector in state history. It includes universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten for every Kentucky child, as well as a raise for all school personnel.

The governor added that the state’s recent record-breaking economic growth, with more than $11.2 billion in new investments and 18,000 new full-time jobs added in 2021, “proves Kentucky is a destination for leading global companies like Ford, Toyota, GE Appliances and Amazon.”

“We must meet this moment by ensuring we have a world-class education system to support our future workforce,” Beshear said. “Perhaps the most important step in ensuring we are never a flyover state ever again is investing in our teachers, schools and students.”

Pre-K–12 education

The governor’s budget starts with providing universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten for every Kentucky child.

“No longer will tens of thousands of our children be left out of preschool or head start – programs that we know provide positive outcomes on children’s early literacy and mathematics skills and foster long-term educational success,” Beshear said.

The historic investment starts with a 16.9% increase in SEEK funding. It has been more than 30 years since this type of investment has been made. The Governor is dedicating $11 million each year to provide statewide learning focusing on literacy and mathematical ability and to implement a regional coaching program. He is providing a 12.5% increase in the SEEK base per pupil funding formula for elementary and secondary schools. 

This budget also fully funds school districts’ costs for student transportation, with $175 million annually, which is an 81% increase in funding.

“What this means is our schools won’t have to bear this cost, freeing up funds for other needs, like hiring a school nurse to help keep students healthy throughout this pandemic,” Beshear said.

The budget provides $22.9 million each year to restore funding for professional development as well as textbooks and instructional resources.

It also provides $6.2 million each year to address emotional and mental health needs by assembling statewide staff and eight regional Social Emotional Learning institutes so that educators have access to training on how best to help students with their mental health.

The governor is providing two new grant programs for school districts to provide wrap-around services to students impacted by violence, substance abuse, child abuse and parental incarceration, and other training and resources to help students.

Career and technical education

To support Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, Beshear is providing $97.4 million this year to support the renovation of 11 local CTE centers that were not funded last year through the Better Kentucky Plan. 

Also included is an additional $75 million for a new round of applications to renovate more CTE centers and an additional $8 million each year provides funding to 12 locally operated CTE centers that have not been part of the formula funding in the last 12 years due to lack of funding. 

Additional funding is provided for state-operated area technical schools in the amount of $3.2 million in fiscal year 2023 and $3.6 million in fiscal year 2024.

The governor is also supporting schools chosen by the U.S. Department of Education that need additional leadership, literacy and numeracy support by providing $14.4 million each year to support all schools identified.

Beshear’s budget also restores a longstanding library grant program that has been eliminated, with $2.5 million annually for grants to local libraries.

Teacher pay and benefits

Beshear said it was past time “to pay those educating our children what they are worth.” He is proposing a minimum 5% salary increase for all school personnel. That’s in addition to the regular salary schedule increases for certified staff.

This is the first identified pay increase in a state budget since the 2006-08 budget.

According to the National Educational Association, Kentucky ranks 42nd in the nation for starting salaries, with new teachers averaging about $37,000 per year.

The also provides $26.3 million each year for a student loan forgiveness program that will provide a maximum $3,000 annual award for each year of employment in a public school as a teacher.

The governor is also fully funding teachers’ pension and medical benefits, and there will be no health insurance premium increases for school employees.

Beshear also proposed providing $6 million more each year to support the 874 Family Resource and Youth Services Centers in 1,200 schools that serve nearly 650,000 students and families.

Higher education

The budget also provides the highest funding increase for higher education in decades with a nearly 12% increase. From 2008 to 2020, about $250 million in General Fund support has been cut from the nine public postsecondary education institutions.

Beshear also announced a new program – the Better Kentucky Promise Scholarship – which fills the gap between tuition and federal and other state aid for all new associate degree and certificate-seeking students at public universities and private, nonprofit Kentucky institutions.

“What this means is we can fully cover the cost for approximately 6,000 additional students in the first year and 9,700 in the second year,” Beshear said. “We are removing another barrier to higher education for those students that want to go to school but could not afford it.”

Other budget notes

The Governor told Kentuckians that “we are rapidly recovering from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw record new private sector investment in 2021.” He said the state’s budget strengths include a record-setting revenue surplus with $1.9 billion more in General Fund revenues than budgeted.

Beshear added that the Republican-dominated Legislative Branch’s attempt to draft and file an Executive Branch budget without the knowledge or input of the Executive Branch itself “is unprecedented, unprovoked, unprofessional, unwise and perhaps even unlawful.”

January 11, 2022 | 12:12 am

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