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Jim Waters

April 1, 2024

New analysis of Jefferson County Public Schools spending, performance finds increasingly less bang for increasingly more bucks

Report builds on earlier data dives into Kentucky’s K-12 facts, trends

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 1, 2024

Contact: Jim Waters @ (270) 320-4376

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Funding and performance trends at the local level mirror even more starkly what’s happening statewide, according to a new Bluegrass Institute policy point.

According to “Less local bang for more bucks: A Review of Facts and Trends in Jefferson County Public Schools,” per-pupil funding in Kentucky’s largest school district was not only a whopping $23,561 but it had significantly increased over the previous year’s $19,280.

Despite the spending spike, over 60% of the district’s fourth- and eighth-grade students failed to attain proficiency on state testing in the key academic areas of reading and math. According to the report:

• The trend in inflation-adjusted funding for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) “has been almost continuously upward since 1990.”

• Teachers’ salaries have fallen behind increases in school funding and inflation.

• Student scores on national tests have begun to fall after a decade of little improvement.

• Gaps between Black and white students “remain as large as they ever were.”

The policy point is the latest in a continuing series of data dives by Bluegrass Institute Scholar John Garen, Ph.D., revealing a dramatic and near-continuous rise in overall funding since 1990, yet very little improvement in educational outcomes, resulting in a large deterioration in the effectiveness of K-12 funding.

Garen is a longtime economics researcher and teacher, is BB&T Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Kentucky and a member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Directors.

“This report confirms at the local level what our earlier policy releases have shown to be true at the state level: more money does not somehow magically create a better public education system,” said Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters. “Still, the K-12 education establishment continues to claim inadequate funding as an excuse for the system’s failure to adequately educate a majority of Kentucky’s public school students, even though lawmakers continue to pour additional hundreds of millions of dollars into the system.

“However, instead of supporting real reforms that prioritize the needs of students, leaders of our public education establishment have doubled down on maintaining the status quo, including weaponizing the commonwealth’s legal system to deny parents the freedom to choose the best educational path for their children,” Waters added.

For more information, please contact author John Garen at or Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters at jwaters@, or 270.320.4376 (cell).

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