Gov. Beshear Calls for $2 Billion in Pre-K through 12th Grade Education

In a Monday morning press conference the week after House Republicans unveiled their full budget and days before he will unveil his full budget request to the state, Gov. Andy Beshear called on the legislature to put billions into Kentucky’s public education system.

Beshear pointed to record investments in the state from outside companies as a reason for the state to put forward the single largest investment in education from pre-kindergarten through high school.

“We must meet this moment by ensuring we have a world-class education system to support our future workforce,” Gov. Beshear said. “Perhaps the most important step in ensuring we are never a flyover state ever again is investing in our teachers, schools and students. We are the destination, but to stay a world-class destination for world-class companies, we must have a world-class workforce. And that starts with education.”

Beshear won election in 2019 against first term Republican Gov. Matt Bevin who had mismanaged his messaging, especially on education. Then Attorney General Beshear leaned-in on education naming Jacqueline Coleman, an educator, as his running mate. Beshear is again pointing to education now, tying his administration to education and educators.

“We have an education-first administration in action, not just words,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. “When we think about our budget and our priorities, we ask three questions: Does it adopt a kids-first mentality? Does it care for the people who care for our kids? Finally, does it provide the resources necessary for our schools to do what we asked of them? To students and teachers from all across the state, thank you for your input and your work.”

The budget request includes the following

Pre-K–12 Education

Beshear’s budget proposal would provide universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten for every Kentucky child, a first in the Commonwealth.

The investment starts with a 16.9 percent increase in SEEK funding, according to a news release. The Governor is dedicating $11 million each year to provide statewide learning focusing on literacy and mathematical ability and to implement a regional coaching program. He is providing a 12.5 percent increase in the SEEK base per pupil funding formula for elementary and secondary schools. This budget also fully funds school districts’ costs for student transportation, with $175 million annually, which is an 81% increase in funding.

“What this means is our schools won’t have to bear this cost, freeing up funds for other needs, like hiring a school nurse to help keep students healthy throughout this pandemic,” Gov. Beshear said.

The Governor’s budget also provides $22.9 million each year to restore funding for professional development as well as textbooks and instructional resources.

Beshear’s budget request also provides $6.2 million each year to assemble statewide staff and eight regional Social Emotional Learning institutes so educators can have access to training on how best to help students with their mental health.

The Governor is providing two new grant programs for school districts to provide wrap-around services to students impacted by violence, substance abuse, child abuse and parental incarceration, and other training and resources to help students.

Career and Technical Education
The Governor said career and technical education centers are a critical component of high school curricula, helping meet the needs of students in academic achievement, career exploration, career preparation and leadership development.

To support Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, Gov. Beshear is providing $97.4 million this year to support the renovation of 11 local CTE centers that were not funded last year through the Better Kentucky Plan. The CTE centers still in need are in the following school districts: Boyd, Carter, Edmonson, Fleming, Grayson, Lewis, Livingston, McCreary, Marshall, Nelson and Union counties.

Also included is an additional $75 million for a new round of applications to renovate more CTE centers and an additional $8 million each year provides funding to 12 locally operated CTE centers that have not been part of the formula funding in the last 12 years due to lack of funding. They include centers in the following school districts: Ashland Independent, Bardstown Independent, Boone, Boyle, Hardin, Hopkins, Hart, Laurel, Oldham, Spencer, Washington and Whitley counties.

Additional funding is provided for state-operated area technical schools in the amount of $3.2 million in fiscal year 2023 and $3.6 million in fiscal year 2024.

The Governor is also supporting schools chosen by the U.S. Department of Education that need additional leadership, literacy and numeracy support by providing $14.4 million each year to support all schools identified.

Gov. Beshear’s budget also restores a longstanding library grant program that has been eliminated, with $2.5 million annually for grants to local libraries.

Teacher Pay and Benefits
In a news release, Gov. Beshear said it was past time to pay those educating our children what they are worth. He is proposing a minimum 5 percent salary increase for all school personnel. That’s in addition to the regular salary schedule increases for certified staff.This is the first identified pay increase in a state budget since the 2006-08 budget.

The Governor’s budget goes further by providing $26.3 million each year for a student loan forgiveness program that will provide a maximum $3,000 annual award for each year of employment in a public school as a teacher.

The Governor is also fully funding teachers’ pension and medical benefits. And there will be no health insurance premium increases for school employees.

Gov. Beshear also included funding for Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, providing $6 million more each year to support the 874 Family Resource and Youth Services Centers in 1,200 schools that serve nearly 650,000 students and families.

Higher Education
In addition to its $2 billion investment in Pre-K–12 education, the Governor’s budget also provides the highest funding increase for higher education in decades with a nearly 12 percent increase.

“Past budget cuts have led to tuition increases and cutbacks,” Gov. Beshear said. “Restoring a significant share of past budget cuts will better position these institutions to graduate the world-class thinkers that our world-class companies and opportunities demand.”

Beshear’s budget includes $60 million for the Bucks for Brains program to be matched dollar-for-dollar with private donations. Bucks for Brains helps the state support our world-class economy by aligning postsecondary education with emerging needs of business and industry, and there are many new and exciting businesses coming to Kentucky. These funds also help students prepare for employment and nurture an entrepreneurial climate.

Another top priority for postsecondary education is paying down the debt of deferred maintenance for nine postsecondary institutions.

“We can’t let our schools crumble,” said Gov. Beshear. “My budget includes $500 million from the General Fund, the first significant funding for this in 20 years.”

And the Governor is investing funds, including agency bonds as well as third-party donations, for new construction of 19 new university capital projects, which include:

  • Eastern Kentucky University constructing a new Model Laboratory School;
  • Morehead State University building a new science and engineering building;
  • Murray State University renovating classrooms and offices to support science and nursing curriculum;
  • Northern Kentucky University expanding Herrmann Natural Science Center;
  • University of Kentucky constructing a new health education building;
  • University of Louisville adding on to its Speed Engineering School;
  • Western Kentucky University constructing a new Gordon Ford College of Business; and
  • The Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) renovating and/or replacing buildings in Elizabethtown, Jefferson County and Somerset.

The legislature controls the purse strings of the state, and with both chambers controlled by the opposite party of Beshear – that already proposed state spending, Beshear’s asks are likely to remain just that – asks, unless he can find a place to negotiate with the GOP held supermajorities in the House and Senate.