The Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding program is a formula-driven allocation of state provided funds to local school districts. The formula includes funding for transportation costs, special needs students, at risk students, homebound & hospital students, and English Language Learners as reported by districts. SEEK is the fundamental state source of funds for our school district, along with local tax revenues from Paducah. The revenue sources for our district are almost evenly divided between state SEEK and local tax revenues.
While the state allocates funds for local school districts for other expenses like textbooks, teacher training, and services for children with learning difficulties, a decade of state budget cuts totaling $2 billion since the recession of 2008 have drained those funding sources.
Here’s a specific example: The state SEEK allocation for transportation for Paducah Public Schools should be $1.4 million, but it has been gradually reduced to only 62% funded. Therefore we only received $889,000 for transportation for the current fiscal year. Since bus transportation for our students is an essential expense, the $511,000 that has to be made up to fully fund transportation must come from local tax revenue.
Funding for SEEK has essentially been frozen since 2008, with very small increases in 2015 and 2016. When inflation and number of students are taken into account, SEEK funding per student is 15.8% lower in 2018 than it was in 2008. This gives Kentucky the third deepest cut in the nation for local schools since 2008. (Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, “Commonwealth at Risk: A Preview of the 2018-20 Kentucky State Budget”, page 3)
Budget cuts to education over the past ten years have already forced districts to cut programs, reduce personnel and increase efficiencies. Cuts to SEEK funds have the potential to create immediate and severe impacts on the quality of education that our children and Paducah’s future workforce will receive.
This matters not only to those who work for schools, or to parents who have students in schools- it matters for all citizens in two fundamental ways.
First, state cuts in funding for schools weaken our local economy in the long term.
Our mission is to inspire all students to achieve excellence, explore opportunities and realize their full potential with the goal of preparing each and every student to be college or career ready upon graduation.
The quality of the education we provide our students provides the foundation that helps them succeed in college or work. Competent, qualified graduates who can step into the local job market contribute to the local economy through the value their work adds to local businesses, the taxes they pay, and the money they spend in the local economy.
Second, state cuts in funding for schools forces local school districts to either further cut educational offerings or to replace lost revenue by adjusting local tax revenue.
The governor will present his budget on January 16 but we are already hearing the 2018-20 state budget will propose a 15-18% cut to SEEK funding. For our district that translates into a $1.6-1.9 million dollar reduction in state funding. Since the only mechanism that our school board has to offset the cut is to adjust local tax rates, a state SEEK reduction is fundamentally state legislators forcing local school boards to recover costs by raising local taxes.
My mother, a history teacher, would remind us occasionally that it is the constitutional responsibility of the state to fund public schools. Paducah’s business community expects our schools to provide college and career ready students. We can only accomplish this mission if the state of Kentucky does its part by appropriately funding public education in the commonwealth.
One of the pillars of our strategic plan is fiscal responsibility, and we will continue to find ways to increase the district’s financial efficiency to ensure every student’s success. But efficiencies can only help so much. At this point, we need your voice. Please contact your state legislators and ask them to protect SEEK funding for local schools in the 2018-20 budget.