KY School Funding Gap Wider Than Levels Declared Unconstitutional
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
The funding gap between the state’s poorest and wealthiest school districts is widening, with potentially dire consequences for students and communities, according to new data from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy explains year after year, state budgets passed by lawmakers have eroded the amount of money that goes into the formula to help equalize school funding. He added now, the gap between rich and poor school districts has reached levels not seen since the 1980s, when the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.
“We’re not seeing any efforts to reverse that trend yet,” he said. “In fact, there are big concerns about actually making it worse, particularly by cutting the income tax, which is the largest source of revenue for state government.”
In 2022, the per-student gap between wealthy and poor districts reached more than $3,900, according to the report.
Bailey noted wealthier districts tend to levy a variety of local taxes that are out of reach for lower-income communities. Districts in metro and suburban areas also generate more local revenues from an occupational tax on wages and net profits. He said school districts that have been hit the hardest by the funding gap are also the ones seeing average teacher pay continue to shrink.
“So teachers are facing more workloads, bigger classes, but pay that is just not keeping up, it’s harder to attract people to the profession, they’re more likely to burn out after a few years,” he explained.
The equity gap has also been widening in other areas, including the employer portion of teacher retirement and health and life insurance.