I am hearing all sorts of things about Gov. Matt Bevin and what he has done to education. As a retired teacher from a profession that I enjoyed very much, I set out to do homework — to answer for myself the truth of these issues.
I have found that Bevin along with the legislators have allocated more money to education than anyone before them. I hear that the governor has reduced the money to Kentucky schools, but that is not true. And the governor cannot do either of these things by himself, increase or decrease money. The Legislature has to pass the bills that do either. Our representatives and senators have a say on all of the process and we must speak with them for our say.
SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky), per pupil money, has again been raised to $4,000 per student, the highest ever. There is even more money allocated for at risk students, students with severe disabilities, homebound students, limited English students, funding for transportation. Of course, local communities have a responsibility through taxes to help with funding and I believe that both the city and the county have asked for and received tax base increases this year. What school boards decide to do with the money is another conversation for us.
I have heard that the governor is “messing” with our pension fund. We teachers have known for years that our pension was not on solid ground. I was pleased to see that the governor was looking at our pension in efforts to improve the funds for us. I am looking at a funding summary from 2009-2020 and am seeing that pension contributions have increased from $531-$680 million by 2016. Beginning in 2017 under Bevin and the Legislature, I see a contribution increase to more than $1 billion to our pension. I pray that they keep on “messing” with our pension like that.
I do understand that they are looking at making changes to the pension so that pensions could be maintained for future state employees/teachers. I know that business has gone through these transitions a decade or more ago. They had to move from a defined benefit to some other style of retirement in order to stay solvent. My husband’s company made that transition and we feared the change, but it has worked to our advantage in the long run.
I know that the contribution to education has increased 350%-400% nationally during my 30-year career yet the test scores have remained stagnate or have declined. I know that the federal government has taken over the curriculum and testing which is unconstitutional. Education is a state responsibility. Curriculum is our responsibility but we have little say. Testing has become a national business instead remaining with the teacher and state. We fear state changes that are an effort to improve the educational process for students and teachers. I digress. These are discussions for another day.
Finances for education in Kentucky are moving in a positive way according to my research. I encourage you to not believe all of the KEA or campaign jargon. Please investigate. Are there educational issues to request help with from the governor and Legislature? Would we always want more money for this and that? Yes, but we certainly have our share of the state money funds.
We make changes by speaking with our elected leaders, working with them, advising them — not by throwing out easy slogans and accusations. Please get involved in a positive manner. Let’s make things better for posterity.
Phyllis Vincent, of Frankfort, can be reached at email@example.com.