The Courier-Journal just ran a story about a report out of Washington that claims Kentucky cut education spending more than most states recently.
I don’t think so.
This graph shows Kentucky’s total education revenue by year from the Kentucky Department of Education’s receipts and expenditures reports. As you can see, from the year prior to KERA’s 1990 enactment through the most recent data available, Kentucky’s total education revenue has been constantly rising. Compared to the 1989-90 year, the state’s spending on education in inflation-adjusted dollars is 188 percent of what it was in that earlier year.
Now, here’s the problem with most studies (like the one the Courier mentions) that attempt to compare state-to-state education funding. Kentucky does some non-standard things with its accounting system that makes it hard to determine our overall funding for education.
Specifically, Kentucky’s teacher retirement system and teacher healthcare system are both managed and funded at the state level. School districts never see that large amount of money. It isn’t listed in SEEK. And, it isn’t included in the department of education’s revenue and expenditure reports, either.
So, when researchers look at state education financing, if they are not very careful, they wind up overlooking some very large education spending items in the Bluegrass State.
I don’t know if the report the Courier mentions falls into this trap or not, but I have found that the most reliable data for comparing state-to-state education spending comes from an annually released US Census Bureau Document titled “Public Education Finances.” This document corrects for Kentucky’s unusual education finance activities.
The most recent edition is “Public Education Finances: 2012.” It shows total elementary-secondary school revenue in Kentucky was $7,191,188,000 that year. Note: this is $602,836,960 higher than the 2011-12 figure in the graph above because it adds in those health care and retirement costs.
“Public Education Finances: 2008,” which contains fiscal year 2008 data, shows Kentucky’s total elementary-secondary revenue that year was $6,635,330,000.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics very neat online inflation calculator, the increase in Kentucky education funding the US Census Bureau reported between 2008 and 2012 – $555,858,000 – exceeded inflation.