Recently, one of the other blogs that writes about Kentucky education has been claiming that Kentucky only spends somewhere around 20 percent of its total money on public education.
That assertion surprised me, as I have heard many times that we actually spend 40 percent or more on public education.
So, I surfed to the governor’s new transparency Web site to see how the state’s fiscal experts describe the budget. The two graphs below are cut and paste copies from that site.
The first one shows how all of the $24.16 billion Kentucky spent in Fiscal Year 2009 was allocated. Education, which I think includes preschool through grade 12, did indeed get 20.2 percent of this pie. That works out to $4.88 billion. Postsecondary education got another 21.7 percent, or 5.24 billion. But, wait – There’s more.
When it comes to money the Kentucky legislature can control, public education got not 20 percent, but a much larger 44 percent of the pie. That’s about $4.136 billion from the $9.4 billion the legislature can control. Postsecondary education got another 13.8 percent, or about $1.3 billion, from the general fund.
I talked to one of the budget people in Frankfort about which graph would be the better indicator of Kentucky legislative intent. The answer was the second graph.
Apparently, a lot of the money in the first graph is “fenced” money from dedicated funds which our legislators really can’t touch.
A considerable amount of the fenced money comes from federal sources, like the federal highway trust fund and Medicaid, which cannot be reallocated by our state leadership.
Other state money that shows in the “all funds” amounts come from such things as license fees that are also dedicated, not general tax, dollars.
For example, license fees are generally fenced to serve the licensees. This includes a wide variety of groups from nurses and doctors to hunters. These are not tax dollars and should not be used as tax dollars. They generally serve to make the administering of the licensing services self-supporting.
License fees may also help do things like support wildlife conservation efforts, in the case of hunting and fishing licenses. Perhaps they even help cover game warden salaries.
While these fee amounts show in the all funds total, they are not available for reprogramming to education.
Of course, some of these license-related activities also contribute to education. For example, wildlife personnel conduct programs for our students, though I don’t think the costs involved for those other agencies’ education programs are shown as an education expense in the pie charts above.
Anyway, I now understand the two ways Kentucky reports funding a bit better, and I hope you also do, as well.