By Carrie Dillard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
East Bernstadt Independent Schools is joining other Kentucky superintendents and school boards to lobby for increased state education funding.
“We’ve stretched our budget to the limit,” said Superintendent Vicki Jones. “No longer is the state funding textbooks. We’ve seen cuts to professional development and safe schools money. In addition, we’ve seen a decrease in Title I money (due to the federal sequestration).”
Tuesday, during a special-called meeting, the board unanimously signed a Resolution to Support Public Education in Kentucky. All Kentucky superintendents and school boards are being asked to support the resolution which will be sent to the Kentucky House of Representatives and State Senate to ask for funding to ensure students receive the skills and knowledge to be college and career ready.
Jones stated the joint resolution asks lawmakers in the next session to consider restoring funding to 2009 levels.
“Beginning in 2009, that was the year we saw cuts in many areas,” she said.
Since the 2007-08 school year, SEEK funding has remained stagnant. SEEK, which is a guaranteed amount per pupil, was $3,822 per pupil in 2007-08; for the current year, 2013-14, it is valued at $3,827. SEEK is based on ADA (Average Daily Attendance).
At its peak funding, East Bernstadt received $24,000 from the state for textbooks. In the current school year, E.B. will receive $0 for textbooks. Professional Development was decreased from $10,000 to $2,000, despite the continuing need for staff training. Safe Schools was decreased from $24,000 to $10,000; and Extended School Services, such as tutoring, was cut by $5,000.
“It all adds up,” said Amy Brown, school finance director. And, unfortunately, the first place to make adjustments in the local school budget is to decrease the number of employees.
East Bernstadt has laid off approximately 10-12 employees over the past four years in response to decreased funding.
In addition to the joint resolution, the E.B. board agreed to contribute to a Better Education Funding Adequacy Study, to be conducted by Picus and Associates (authors of the SEEK formula). The total cost of the study, estimated at $130,000, will be divided between participating school districts and educational organizations such as KEA, KSBA and more. The results of the study will be presented to lawmakers as proof of need for increased funding. Each district’s desired contribution will be based on $0.25 per ADA. East Bernstadt’s portion equals $125.
Jones felt the contribution was “minimal” to provide complete and accurate information to the General Assembly.
“We’ve done everything that the state has asked us to do,” she said. “We are looking for the state to start stepping up to the plate.”
“We’ve got to show support (for this resolution). They’ve (legislature) let us down, big time,” agreed board member Jim Sutton.
In other matters:
The board approved all updates to the School Safety Plan. While much of the plan cannot be released to the public, Jones said all new and existing strategies will be practiced by both staff and students.
According to Principal Teresa Smith, some of the strategies include how to account for every student during real emergencies and drills. Many of the new safety strategies include the latest information about active shooter situations.
“We will continue to tweak this plan as we continue to train,” said Jones.
A copy of the revised safety plan and a school floor plan will be shared with local first responders and law enforcement. The revised plan was also sent to the Kentucky Department of Education by Nov. 1.
The board also approved all consent items including student trips, employee travel and fundraising requests.