Education Funding

With State Budget Overdue, Ky. Districts Prepare for Worst

By David J. Hoff — May 29, 2002 4 min read

Kentucky educators know that their budgets for the next school year will need to be lean. They just wish they knew how lean.

The state legislature has adjourned after failing to pass its biennial budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. That means local school officials have to rely on their best estimates as they decide about staffing and programs for the 2002-03 school year.

“It’s been a total nightmare for every superintendent, teacher, and anybody who works with children,” said Ronald “Woodie” Cheek, the superintendent of the 2,000-student Bath County district in eastern Kentucky. “This is the most impossible year of my career, all because the legislature can’t get together to work for what’s best for the state.”

Mr. Cheek has sent pink slips to 40 of the district’s 330 employees because his worst-case budget scenario doesn’t guarantee he’ll have enough money to pay them. Most of them are either teachers with emergency credentials or instructional aides who don’t have tenure.

School boards throughout the state will be making similar contingency plans this week as they approve budgets based on the lowest funding figures in three versions of the state budget, which are being advocated by the Democratic governor, the Republican- controlled Senate, and the Democratic-led House.

In addition to sparring over differences on policy issues, lawmakers face lower-than-expected revenues and already have trimmed $533 million in state spending to balance the fiscal 2002 budget.

Reviews by Department

Under state law, districts must send their budgets to the state department of education by May 30 for review. Gene Wilhoit, the state commissioner of education, said in a letter to school officials that the law doesn’t grant him the power to extend or ignore the deadline. But he promised that his department wouldn’t act on district budgets until the state budget was settled.

When that will be, no one knows.

After the legislature adjourned April 15 without passing a budget, Gov. Paul E. Patton called for a special session to solve the impasse between Democrats and Republicans. The House and the Senate passed separate K-12 spending bills with figures similar to those in the governor’s proposal.

But Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over whether to publicly finance the 2003 gubernatorial election.

The special session ended May 1 without a resolution. Mr. Patton hasn’t called for a second emergency session, and he is consulting the state attorney general about his executive power to keep the state government operating without a formal budget.

“The preliminary review shows that the governor does have broad powers to run the government by executing an executive order to provide spending levels,” said James R. Ramsey, Mr. Patton’s senior budget adviser.

No matter what happens, school leaders are bracing for the worst from state funding, which constitutes about 60 percent of spending on K-12 public education in Kentucky.

The predicament is common these days, as states struggle with stagnant revenues. Thirty-nine states enacted midyear budget cuts totaling $15 billion in fiscal 2002, according a new report from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

On average, governors’ proposals for overall spending in fiscal 2003 rose 1.4 percent, the smallest proposed boost since 1983, according to the report, “The Fiscal Survey of States: May 2002,” released this month.

Sour Note

While the numbers floated by the Kentucky players vary little, the details of the budget could dramatically affect local budgets.

The House and the Senate have proposed teacher-pay raises of either 1.6 percent or 2.7 percent. While the span is small, it can make a big difference in personnel budgets, Superintendent Cheek of Bath County said.

The Bath County district is spending $7 million this year on salaries, he said. If the legislature chooses to give the 2.7 percent raise, it could mean extra personnel costs that might force him to cut staffing or programs.

In Campbell County in northern Kentucky, school officials have notified six noncertified teachers that their contracts won’t be renewed, and the district may need to lay off teacher’s aides in elementary schools, said Chris Gramke, a spokesman for the 4,600-student system. The district may also be forced to cut its full-day kindergarten program back to half-day, he added.

School districts throughout the state are struggling with similar decisions. The ones that are in the best shape tend to be smaller districts that have managed to build up rainy-day funds.

“This is going to be a considerable inconvenience for us, but it’s manageable,” said Joe Brothers, a member of the Elizabethtown, Ky., school board and the president of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “For others, it’s going to be a nightmare.”

In Bath County, Mr. Cheek said he is living that nightmare. A few weeks ago, he looked out his window and saw high school students marching toward his office. They were coming to find out why teachers were getting pink slips.

“This is a time of year you have to go out on a positive note,” Mr. Cheek said. “There are a lot of school districts that are not going out on a positive note.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 29, 2002 edition of Education Week as With State Budget Overdue, Ky. Districts Prepare for Worst

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Funding How Much Each State Will Get in COVID-19 Education Aid, in Four Charts
This interactive presentation has detailed K-12 funding information about the aid deal signed by President Donald Trump in December 2020.
1 min read
Education Funding Big Picture: How the Latest COVID-19 Aid for Education Breaks Down, in Two Charts
The massive package enacted at year's end provides billions of dollars to K-12 but still falls short of what education officials wanted.
1 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Education Funding Education Dept. Gets $73.5 Billion in Funding Deal That Ends Ban on Federal Aid for Busing
The fiscal 2021 deal increases K-12 aid for disadvantaged students, special education, and other federal programs.
3 min read
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2020, file photo, the Washington skyline is seen at dawn with from left the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol.
In this Nov. 8, 2020, file photo, the Washington skyline is seen at dawn with from left the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. (File Photo-Associated Press)<br/>
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Education Funding The Incredible Shrinking COVID-19 Relief Package for Schools?
The parameters of new bipartisan aid bill might signal that coronavirus relief for schools will fall short of what they've hoped for.
3 min read
The U.S. Capitol Dome
The sun shines on the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/AP