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Ky. Reforms Stay on Track In Legislative Session

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State education officials in Kentucky last week celebrated a milestone for the state's 1990 school-reform law when Gov. Brereton C. Jones signed a budget requiring minimal funding cuts and lawmakers concluded a session marked by support for the landmark education program.

The budget signing capped the General Assembly's biennial session and brought generally positive reaction from observers who said that, while some cuts were required as a result of lagging tax collections, the reform law was not set back in its first review by lawmakers.

"The funding is there to move ahead,'' said Jim Parks, a spokesman for the state education department. "Maybe not as fast as projected in the original budget, but there is money to continue the implementation of the reform programs.''

As state leaders had indicated from the beginning of the year, most of the budget cuts were made in increased funding for such programs as the state's technology network and its achievement bonuses for schools. Otherwise, the only hard hit was felt by the state's summer-school expansion, which was cut by about 40 percent.

The technology program, for which the education department had recommended $66 million during the two-year budget, instead will receive $15 million, as will the school-rewards program, which had been eyeing a $60-million appropriation.

In addition, lawmakers declined to fund an $11-million assessment proposal for students and a $4-million school-improvement fund.

Small cuts were made in programs to support staff development, family and youth service centers, and regional technical assistance.

Tier 1 Fully Funded

State officials, however, did provide full funding for the law's Tier 1 school-funding program, which channels additional state grants to districts with high local tax efforts. That program was underfunded by lawmakers in 1990.

More than $81 million will be appropriated to the program in fiscal 1993, followed by $78 million in the next fiscal year.

Officials also set aside $27 million over the biennium to equalize school-facility funds.

In total, the state's school funding will rise from the current $2.0 billion to $2.1 billion in fiscal 1993 and to $2.2 billion in the next fiscal year.

State officials noted that, as a result of cuts in the current budget year, however, next year's spending on education will represent a 0.6 percent drop from last year's original appropriation, but will rise by 4.8 percent in fiscal 1994.

The state's spending for elementary and secondary education will lag slightly behind the total general-fund budget, which will grow by 2.5 percent next year and 6 percent in fiscal 1994.

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