By Durward Narramore
2014: The year that public education came out on top in state funding.
That is a statement that I heard in a recent meeting I attended. The opinion suggested that the governor and General Assembly protected funding for public education this session but the next budget session in 2016 will most likely be focused on other state agencies that also are requesting increased funding.
That would be great if the funding given to local school districts by way of the SEEK formula was truly adequate, but we, as board members, know that the SEEK funds must be used primarily for salary increases and other “ideas” that have been mandated by legislation.
Those who know me personally realize that I believe, more than a lot of people, that salary increases should be given to those who work in the trenches. But I also realize that you cannot give those increases, or sustain them, without proper funding.
So I say to you as fellow board members, continue communicating the funding needs of K-12 education with the same kind of urgency you displayed so well during the 2014 budget session of the legislature. It is not only the 2016 biennial budget session that we must focus on, either, as recent reports out of Frankfort have indicated the state is grappling with a larger-than-expected revenue shortfall. The governor has said education programs won’t be cut or delayed as a result, but the situation still calls for vigilance on our part.
Yes, state government does spend a lot of money on education, but that charge was given to state government when KERA came into play. If state government wants to get a better bang for its bucks, it should revamp the laws and regulations that keep us from spending money on things other than student achievement. Programs that do not work, or in some instances never worked, need to be thrown out, and the funds put into programs that do work and help our students become better leaders in their chosen professions.
Administrative staff and teaching staff have always put in more time than the public will ever understand, but now they are becoming weary from the burden of implementing programs that change before they can get them off the ground and replaced with another program or initiative.
They also are overextended to the point where they are working in many cases to generate reports instead of teaching kids.
Public schools should be the schools of choice for our children. The overwhelming majority operate at an efficient and ethical level. Let us work together to remove the barriers that hold us back, both bureaucratic and fiscal.
If regulatory or legislative exemptions are made for charter schools (if they ever come into being in Kentucky) or similar alternatives, regular public schools should get the same treatment so the playing field is level and all can be schools of choice.
— Narramore also serves as chairman of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education