With a record surplus on the books, lawmakers in the Republican state of Kentucky are cautiously considering money for public education. Speaking at the Kentucky Education Summit on Monday, Pro Tempore House Speaker David Meade and Pro Tempore Senate Speaker David Givens said 2022 could be the year they tackle spending increases that they envisioned before the pandemic.
âWe’re going to have the money,â said Givens, a Republican from Greensburg. The state posted a record budget surplus of $ 1.1 billion this summer at the end of the fiscal year. Forecasters say the current year’s surplus could be even larger.
Before the pandemic hits in 2020, lawmakers had budgeted with small salary increases for teachers and other government employees. Later, amid concerns over the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the GOP-led legislature passed two conservatives one year budgets without significant new expenses.
But the economy performed better than expected, and the state raked in hundreds of millions of dollars more than expected.
“[We] I don’t want to be too excited, though, âGivens warned, noting that the state owes millions of dollars in pension costs, which exploded after the General Assembly failed to make full actuarial payments to the system. teacher retirement plans for several years after the Great Recession.
âWe still have legacy retirement costs that we have to contend with. And a substantial portion of that funding needs to be spent on those legacy retirement costs, âGivens said.
Givens is also worried about inflation.
âWe don’t want to focus too much on building systems that require future investment,â he said.
But he said he was anticipating a “solid conversation” about teacher pay increases, investments in infrastructure and technology, while “withholding money for rainy days.”
Meade, a Republican from Stanford, said he eventually wants to increase the state’s per-pupil allowance, which has stood at $ 4,000 since 2019. District leaders say the state’s share in the education funding has not kept up with costs and is at its lowest since at least 2008, allowing for inflation, according to the left-wing Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Meade also said he was interested in permanent funding for full-time kindergarten. Historically, the state has only paid for half a day for kindergarten, leaving districts and sometimes parents to bear the rest of the cost. For this year alone, lawmakers have extended funding to a full day of instruction.
New spending, however, Meade suggested, could be associated with possible cuts.
âMaybe we have too many people in administration in some districts,â he said. “And where are we behind in the rest of the world? We also need to look at these things. “
Meanwhile, Senator Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville, called for increased spending.
âWe need more money in the system. We don’t need less money in the system, âhe said. âWe have huge problems in some parts of the system, whether it’s rural or some urban schools – and it will take funding. “
Jefferson County Public Schools are among many districts seeking increased state funding.