I was pleased to participate in a recent Kentucky Tonight broadcast on KET along with Kentucky Senator Mike Wilson, Kentucky Representative Derrick Graham, incumbent head of the Prichard Committee Brigitte Blom Ramsey and guest show host Renee Shaw (show online here). We had a lively discussion about many education issues that are likely to come up in the 2016 session of the Kentucky legislature.
One surefire subject was education spending in Kentucky. I mentioned on air that once you consider the Kentucky taxpayer’s ability to pay, Kentucky is actually doing a better job than most states in supporting public education. Let’s look at that a little more closely.
The best resource for comparing state-to-state education expenditures comes from an annual publication from the US Census Bureau. The latest edition, which just came out in June of 2015 is “Public Education Finances: 2013.” Earlier versions of the same document have a similar title except for the year.
Within each of these documents is a table, Table 12, which has a rather complex name like, “States Ranked According to Relation of Public Elementary-Secondary School System Finance Amounts to $1,000 Personal Income: Fiscal Year 2013.” Decoded, this is basically a ranking of how much states spend compared to the ability of that state’s taxpayers to pay. This table helps to even the playing field for states like Kentucky where the taxpayers actually do a relatively good job of supporting education given their financial ability to do so.
The graph below shows how Kentucky ranks among the 50 states and Washington, DC for taxpayer support for schools. In this table, a lower number shows better performance.