Perhaps the best source of credible, “apples to apples” state education funding data is the US Census Bureau’s annual report called Public Education Finances. “Public Education Finances: 2010” just came out, and I’ve been looking over Table 12. This table ranks the states on a number of educational revenue and spending items for the 2009-2010 school year in relationship to the wealth of the state’s taxpayers. Table 12 levels the playing field for poor states like Kentucky.
I think the rankings from this Census Bureau document are revealing.
Consider teachers’ pay.
Once the Kentucky taxpayer’s ability to pay is considered, the average for salaries for instruction in our school system ranks 13th best in the nation. Despite all the noise we are hearing currently about funding for education, Kentucky’s taxpayers already are providing for teachers well above what the taxpayers’ incomes would indicate they might be expected to provide.
Kentucky’s taxpayers also hit a bit above the national norm for their funding for teacher benefits, with the state ranking 24th out of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia on that measure.
After considering the taxpayers’ income, Kentucky ranked 23rd overall for the amount of revenue from all sources, local, state and federal, that support education here. And, when only state sources of revenue for education are considered, the state ranks 12th in the nation.
Clearly, once you consider the obvious fact that Kentucky is not a wealthy state, the funding for education is higher than you would expect.
Especially with major areas of the state’s economy – such as coal and energy in general – now under active attack from Washington, those who want to hit the Kentucky taxpayer for still more funding need to keep this in mind.