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Has Rose wilted?

Has Rose wilted?
Kentucky School Advocate
June 2019
By Brenna R. Kelly
Staff writer 
After the Kentucky Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Rose v. Council for Better Education, the state poured more than $1.6 billion into K-12 education, created the SEEK education funding formula to help equalize state funding across school districts and changed many state laws governing K-12 schools.

But over time, the burden of funding Kentucky’s public schools has slowly shifted from the state, as required by the Rose decision, back to local communities.

The Council for Better Education reported in 2018 that local money now makes up 49 percent of SEEK funding. Just 10 years earlier, local funding was at 40 percent. The analysis also showed, that when adjusted for inflation, overall SEEK funding fell over the last decade.
Richard Day
“Now, we’re to the point where the per pupil expenditure in Kentucky is not quite as bad as it was in ’83, but it’s approaching it,” said Eastern Kentucky University professor Richard Day (right), who wrote a nearly 400-page dissertation on the Rose case. 

For example, one urban independent district spends nearly $22,000 per pupil while one rural county district spends just over $13,000, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. The data shows that nearly 67 percent of the funding for this independent district comes from local money while the local share in the county district is 12 percent. 

Day said he doesn’t know whether a lawsuit could happen again, but “this disinvestment and under funding in K-12 are symptoms of what I think is a problem that might be of interest to the courts.” 

Both Day and Jack Moreland, the former Dayton Independent superintendent who was integral in the Rose case, said not only is education funding becoming inequitable, but also inadequate after the state failed to re-invest in education after the Great Recession. 

“I realize that other states were having to cut back, too,” Moreland said, “but at the same time we haven’t put any major money into public education in 15 years when you come right down to it.” 

It’s a disheartening for Moreland who spent more than 30 years trying to improve Kentucky’s public education system. 

“What happened was in 1990, when (KERA) became the law of the land, we almost immediately went from being one of the last states in the U.S. in a lot of different categories to the middle of the pack,” Moreland said. “If we had continued to fund education appropriately, we would have been one of the states known for education right now. That was the promise of doing it and doing it right.”
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