Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Patton criticizes Kentucky levels of school funding

Meeting looks at how reforms have worked

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT - Gov. Paul Patton Tuesday sided with school superintendents and other educators who say Kentucky schools are underfunded.

        “I believe we've achieved relative economic equity. We have not yet achieved adequacy,” Mr. Patton told an audience that included dozens of superintendents and legislators.

        Implying that doing so would not be painless, yet without making a specific proposal, Mr. Patton said he questioned whether the General Assembly, and his own administration, possessed “the courage and the wisdom and the commitment to keep educational improvement on track.”

        He convened the meeting for a midpoint review of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, under which the state has set a goal of having all schools reach a prescribed level of proficiency by 2014.

        The meeting came at a time of rampant budget cutting in state government, following a fiscal year in which tax receipts declined from the previous year.

        Mr. Patton also said his allusion to making sacrifices involved more than money. Passing the reform act “required a whole lot of hard choices by a lot of people, ... a lot of soul searching” about the way schools operated and were governed.

        The 1990 law was enacted after the Kentucky Supreme Court, ruling in a lawsuit by a coalition of 66 “property poor” school districts over state funding, declared the public school system unconstitutional.

        But the percentage of the General Fund reserved for elementary and secondary education has declined. The coalition, organized as the Council for Better Education, has grown to 142 districts.

        Covington Superintendent Jack Moreland, who heads the coalition, pressed the issue by asking Sen. Dan Kelly, floor leader of the Senate's Republican majority, if the Senate would support an overhaul of Kentucky's tax system.

        Mr. Kelly, R-Springfield, said “the resolve is there” to do something, though, like Mr. Patton, he made no specific proposal.


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- Patton criticizes Kentucky levels of school funding