Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified ARC. WCPO regrets the error.
EDGEWOOD, Ky. -- Northern Kentucky school employees staged walk-ins before and after classes on Friday to protest proposed Kentucky budget cuts directed at school districts and the lack of a viable pension reform bill.
Members of Kenton County and Boone County school districts are among those participating. Simon Kenton High School social studies teacher Christine Hoerlein said they want students to be competitive internationally, and cutting funding for technology limits that growth. She said budget cuts to the school's student resource center would be "devastating."
"We need to restore the funding for our youth service centers that do so much to help our students in need, students who are underprivileged for various reasons, (and) our students who are homeless. They need funds to meet the needs of those students. We need to keep the pension funding that teachers were promised," Hoerlein said.
Laura Schneider, high school teacher and president of the Kenton County Education Association and Northern Kentucky Education Association, echoed that message in a news release. She said Kentucky must restore funding for programs like SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding, Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, preschool, KTIP (Kentucky Teacher Internship Program), ARC (Actuarially Required Contribution) funding to public pension systems, and professional development.
Schneider said these walk-ins are taking place before the work day begins or in the afternoon after the work day is over so they don't disrupt class time.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt told a House budget subcommittee that cutting the state’s education achievement gap in half in the next 13 years is unrealistic without sufficient funding.
But a shorter-term problem is making sure that districts get enough money help them meet basic operations, especially the ones reeling from declines in enrollment, property tax collections and revenue from taxes on unmined coal.
“Our districts are under extreme financial distress,” Pruitt told reporters.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s two-year budget proposal would keep per-student K-12 funding at the same level in the next two fiscal years, but it would inflict cuts elsewhere. He unveiled a spending plan in mid-January that would impose reductions across most of state government.
His proposal would cut more than $138 million from public school transportation. The state currently covers on average 58 percent of what local districts spend on school buses. Bevin wants to lower that to 25 percent. School districts would have to make up the difference. Bevin says the money can come from the school districts’ savings accounts.
Bevin’s proposal would cut the state’s share of health insurance coverage for school districts by tens of millions of dollars, and would require districts to cut administrative costs by 12 percent.