BOWLING GREEN — Superintendents of school districts from around the region voiced their opposition to House Bill 205, which would divert public school funds to private schools, during a press conference Monday afternoon at Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC).
“We gather here today along with superintendents representing the GRREC region while a similar press conference is being held simultaneously throughout our state by public school superintendents,” said Bo Matthews, superintendent of Barren County Schools and a past president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
“From the 648,000 students, the 42,000 teachers and the 46,000 support staff that are representing public education, it is important that school superintendents’ voices be heard regarding any legislation that will have a negative impact on public education,” Matthews said, adding that HB 205 was the reason for their gathering.
“In a time where well-intended legislation like Senate Bill 1, commonly known as the School Safety Bill, has been passed without funding, and funding being eliminated for teacher professional development, no money for textbooks and only half-funding for kindergarten and preschool programming in all of Kentucky’s public schools, we cannot fathom how House Bill 205 could pass which will divert public funds to private schools,” Matthews said. “This violates Kentucky’s constitution and will take up to $25 million away from state revenue.
“There is no scenario in which House Bill 205 will not result in a negative impact on our students, teachers, schools and districts. House Bill 205 cannot be amended in any form to gain our support.”
Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton said their opposition to HB 205 is “not an attack on private schools or on school choice” and is not “an attempt monopolize the dollars used to educate our students.”
“Our current students and families, as well as future generations, are counting upon us to not only provide a quality public school education today, but for generations out in front of us,” Clayton said. “We have a major revenue issue, and any law that further compromises the lack of funding primarily impacts our most vulnerable students.”
Clayton said it doesn’t cost a the same amount of money to teach each student, as some require additional care and attention, and “our current funding formula requires us to utilize the monies allocated for the typical student to offset these additional expenses for our most vulnerable, many of which make up our achievement gap.”
“The claim that when students leave the school district, that the district actually saves money is simply not true and disingenuous at best,” Clayton said. “When enrollment drops for any reason, the fixed-costs remain, and most cases the number of teachers remains the same, the number of busses, the utility expenses, administrative expenses, etc.
“Schools are not funded based on student enrollment in our great state of Kentucky, but we must staff our schools for every student who is enrolled. Every dollar matters, and we cannot continue to absorb these cuts year after year and it not impact the quality of education for our students.”
After the press conference, Matthews told the Glasgow Daily Times that the main problem with HB 205 is that it would take funds away from public schools and give those funds to private schools.
“We can’t support that,” Matthews said.
Metcalfe County Schools Superintendent Benny Lile told the Daily Times that he agreed with his colleagues regarding HB 205.
“I think Mr. Matthews opened it up very well,” Lile said. “It makes it appear that there’s $25 million available in the budget — and if it is, obviously the sponsors of (HB 205) think that’s a priority — and, obviously, we don’t.
“So in the budget situation that we’re all facing statewide, particularly across education — professional development fund is gone, transportation (is at) 58 percent, kindergarten at half-day, textbook funds we haven’t had for some time — it would appear that $25 million could have other priorities than this.
“So I think we stand unified (against HB 205).”