The General Assembly can give Kentucky’s kids what they need to succeed

·3 min read

As executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS), I go to work every day determined to see that 640,000 students, in all of the Commonwealth’s 171 school districts, can be at their best in and outside the classroom. Making that dream a reality is all the more important, in light of the ongoing pandemic, recent natural disasters and an economic crisis that has turned many of our students’ and their families’ lives upside down – not to mention forced countless businesses across the Commonwealth to close as a result.

It’s been a difficult set of circumstances to respond to, but our superintendents, school boards, districts and school teams have faced these unprecedented challenges with courage, tenacity and integrity. Fortunately, a new day is dawning. Kentucky experienced record-breaking economic development last year, highlighted by $11.2 billion in investment and over 18,000 new jobs. While this influx of money and jobs are significant for the state’s economy, these jaw-dropping statistics will require an equally significant commitment to workforce development. That effort begins by investing in our public schools and the future of the Bluegrass State – our children.

So, I was pleased to hear that the General Assembly shares my concerns and is focused on closing the gap in our state’s decades-long, chronically underfunded education system. The Kentucky House of Representatives took an important first step by passing the 2022 state budget (House Bill 1), and I want to applaud them for including support for full-day kindergarten, career and technical education funding and additional resources for schools, teachers and faculty.

To paraphrase Stephen Foster, ‘the sun shines bright’ on Kentucky, but KASS knows that we can build an even brighter tomorrow for the Commonwealth by investing in the proven strategies of today. That is why I urge the Kentucky Senate to add three common sense, common ground reforms to House Bill 1. First, fully fund transportation so that students can safely get to and from school as opposed to worrying if and when they’ll get picked up by the bus. We have learned through the pandemic of the critical role our schools make in the lives of working families who rely on school bus transportation – and the peace of mind it brings them. Next, increase per-pupil SEEK funding, because we are investing less per student currently (indexed for inflation) than we did over three decades ago. Finally, give school districts more freedom by providing the much-needed resources and flexibility to help ensure students, teachers, and staff members succeed at school, work, and in the community.

All of us want to see our students to excel academically, professionally and personally. House Bill 1 has the real potential to do precisely that and, at the same time, position the Commonwealth as a national leader in education once more. We just need the Kentucky General Assembly to pass House Bill 1 with the KASS-backed Kids First Kentucky priorities listed above to make it happen.

Our kids, families, businesses and communities big and small are counting on it.

Dr. Jim Flynn is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.