Beshear offers pre-K public funding for every 4-year-old

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Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday proposed a massive budget increase for Kentucky education, calling for a state-funded preschool for every 4-year-old as he sought to reshape the debate after Republicans in the House have gone ahead with their own spending plan.

The governor said his two-year budget proposal includes nearly $ 2 billion in additional funding for preschool to grade 12. Beshear will present his general state spending plan Thursday night in a speech to lawmakers and a statewide televised hearing.

“Now is the time to make game-changing investments that turn two years of economic gains into 20 years of great prosperity for our people,” said the governor. “This is how we get ahead of the other states. This is how we make sure we never get 40th or 45th in anything again.

Meanwhile, emergency funding for tornado-stricken areas of Kentucky has begun to advance with bipartisan support. A bill proposing $ 200 million in aid cleared a House committee on Monday.

The plan is to inject $ 45 million into affected communities, including $ 15 million for temporary housing and $ 30 million for schools. More aid will be released later to help meet other recovery needs, House Speaker David Osborne said.

“We know there is going to be additional funds that will be needed for local governments,” he said. “We know there are going to be insurance shortages. We know there are going to be funds for school building that will be needed. We just don’t know what it is yet.”

The measure, requested by the governor, is a response to the storms that devastated several communities in Kentucky last month, killing 77 people.

As for the state’s next biennial budget, Beshear plans to reveal more details of his proposal ahead of his budget speech. Its demands for further spending remain well within the state’s means, he said, amid record income surpluses and unprecedented highs for business investment and job creation across the country. state in 2021.

Some GOP legislative leaders prefer more restrained spending, warning that the economy has benefited from huge amounts of federal aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beshear’s administration said it was blinded by the release of a House budget bill last Friday as Republicans chose not to wait for the governor’s budget plan. Lawmakers have traditionally used the governor’s spending plan as a starting point for drafting budget bills.

The governor blasted House Republicans for bypassing his office by tabling the bill covering most state services, including education, health care and public safety.

“Writing and tabling an executive budget without the knowledge of the executive itself is unprecedented,” Beshear said at a press conference. “It’s not provoked. It’s unprofessional, reckless and maybe even illegal.

Osborne said bringing the House Budget Bill forward is the first step in a process that will include reviewing the governor’s recommendations and Senate priorities.

House Appropriations and Income Committee Chairman Jason Petrie said last week that the bill reflects months of work with input from stakeholders. He said the measure provides “a strong and responsible approach in line with the needs and obligations of our state and our philosophy that we must carefully review every allocation we make.”

Beshear said his plan called for significantly more funding for education.

One of the cornerstones of Beshear’s plan is to ensure pre-kindergarten learning for every 4-year-old, with the state fully funding the initiative. The cost – $ 172 million for each year of the next biennium – is “more than affordable,” amounting to a fraction of the massive state budget surplus, he said.

“Tens of thousands of our children will no longer be excluded from preschool or the Head Start program, programs that we know deliver positive results on children’s early reading and math skills and promote success. long-term educational experience, ”Beshear said.

Beshear’s plan includes a 12.5% ​​increase in base funding per student under SEEK, the state’s primary funding formula for Kindergarten to Grade 12. That would equate to an additional $ 397 million over the next two years, he said.

The governor’s two-year budget would increase the amount to $ 4,300 in the first year and $ 4,500 in the second year. Under the House GOP plan, the amount would increase to $ 4,100 in the first year and $ 4,200 in the second. The current amount is $ 4,000.

Beshear’s plan would fully fund school district costs for student transportation, freeing up local funds that districts could use for other initiatives. The House GOP said its plan would increase the state’s share to a minimum of 70%, with the state fully covering transportation costs for some districts.

Both versions would provide state funding to cover the full cost of full-time kindergarten.

The governor proposed a minimum wage increase of 5% for all school staff.

Beshear said he would propose a nearly 12% funding increase for Kentucky’s higher education system – the largest in decades.

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