Advocate Staff Report
Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday outlined a three-pronged approach to budgetary belt-tightening as he spoke to 1,000 or so school board members, superintendents and others attending KSBA’s annual conference Feb. 3-5.
Given state budget cuts, Holliday said the “No. 1 burning question” is how districts can do more with less money.
One option, he said, is to follow the example set by the School Energy Managers Project, which used a concentrated, professional effort to save school districts millions of dollars in energy costs. Holliday said the education department would like to replicate the program and will be contacting superintendents and school business officers to determine what other operational areas can be similarly approached.
“We do we need to find dollars in our operations systems that you can free up that would then go into your classrooms,” he said.
Holliday said districts also can look at redirecting existing money. “I know you feel like you’ve done all you can do with that. I think there are always programs you can look at that you can say, ‘This program is not adding value that we wanted to add, so how can we redirect existing dollars?’” A federal waiver of No Child Left Behind requirements, which Holliday expects, will provide “tremendous flexibility for local boards and superintendents to discuss how we spend federal dollars.”
Drawing a round of applause, the commissioner pointed out that districts can take these two actions, “but Kentucky must have additional revenue for education … It is time that we asked our General Assembly to honor the commitment they made in the early 90s when education was important to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
The two options for raising revenues are to ask citizens to vote on a constitutional amendment to expand gaming, with the funds from that source to be earmarked for education and to initiate tax reform. Both sources would take several years to be felt fiscally at the local level, he added/
If board teams don’t like either of these options, Holliday said, “put a third one on the table.”