And, which funding source provides the largest share of overall education dollars?
I got prompted by a Twitter discussion to look at something that turned out to be a real surprise. It certainly didn’t work out the way those who fuss about Kentucky’s education funding would like us to believe.
Very simply, when we look at the separate contributions to total per pupil funding from local, state and federal sources, officially audited and released financial reports from the Kentucky Department of Education indicate it’s the state, not local tax sources, that provides the majority of education funding in Kentucky. In addition, the state’s contribution has actually grown larger compared to local funding since the Great Recession hit.
This exercise started when a Twitter participant claimed that in Kentucky the largest increase in education spending recently has come from local funding, not from the state sources.
I wondered if that was so and decided to see what the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) annually released Revenues and Expenditures reports might show. These are online for each school year way back to 1989-90. However, I decided to focus on the period from 2007-08 to 2016-17 because there has been a lot of hand wringing about supposed funding cuts for education since the Great Recession hit.
The 2007-08 report has a tab titled “Receipts” and the 2016-17 report has a tab titled “2017 AFR Revenues.” These tabs separately show per pupil revenue from all three sources averaged across the entire state.
Table 1 below shows the actual amounts of school revenue in unadjusted dollars for both years from local, state and federal sources found in these two reports. The table also shows a conversion of the 2007-08 figures into inflation-adjusted 2017 dollars. The bottom part of the table shows the changes in the local, state, and federal funding from 2007-08 and 2016-17 in both unadjusted and inflation-adjusted numbers (Note: 2007-08 inflation conversion used the online Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator).
Table 1 shows a couple of interesting things.
- In both 2007-08 and 2016-17 the state level contribution to overall education funding in Kentucky was notably larger than either the local or federal contribution.
- In 2007-08 the state contribution of $4,892 dollars per pupil was 39 percent larger than the local contribution of $3,521. By 2016-17 the state contribution of $6,837 was 60 percent larger than the local contribution of $4,278. So, according to this audited financial data from KDE, the state’s education financial contribution rose notably compared to the local contribution between the 2007-08 and 2016-17 school terms.
- Even after adjusting for inflation, funding from all three sources – local, state and federal – was higher in 2016-17 than it was in 2007-08.
- The inflation-adjusted change in state education funding between 2007-08 and 2016-17 was over four times larger than the change from local sources.
So, this is what the official Revenues and Expenditures reports from the Kentucky Department of Education say. And, the numbers are based on audited data for actual revenues received by each Kentucky school district, not some budget projection that might have been changed due to a number of factors before the dollars were actually collected.