Today, Gov. Andy Beshear outlined his “Education First” budget plan, which provides an 11% pay raise for teachers and all school personnel – the largest single pay raise for public school educators in 40 years – and fully funds universal pre-K.
The Governor’s plan also fully funds teacher pensions and student transportation; ensures no health insurance premium increase for educators; provides teachers student loan forgiveness; supports professional development; funds textbooks; boosts mental health services and will help build new career and technical education centers.
“We must invest more in public education. Our teachers are not paid what they are worth, and every child deserves a chance at true prosperity,” Gov. Beshear said.
The biggest difference between the Governor’s last budget proposal and the General Assembly’s enacted budget was the lack of funding for education.
The Governor added, “With a record budget surplus, the largest Rainy Day Fund in state history and good economic conditions, we must keep Kentucky competitive by investing in our schools, teachers and students.”
The Education First plan includes:
11% Pay Raise for Teachers and All School Staff
Based on reports from the National Education Association (NEA), Kentucky currently ranks 44th in teacher starting pay, with the average teacher starting salary being $38,010. The Governor’s plan aims to change that by investing $1.1 billion over two years to support an 11% pay raise for teachers and all school employees, including bus drivers, cafeteria staff and janitors.
This increase would bring Kentucky’s average teacher starting pay to $42,191, which would bring Kentucky up to 24th in the country for teacher starting salary in NEA’s rankings. The pay raise also would bring Kentucky up to 25th in average teacher salary, from its current ranking of 40th in NEA’s rankings.
The Governor noted that the Kentucky Department of Education also has salary data, but the NEA data is widely used and provides state-by-state comparisons. According to KDE, the average starting salary has risen to $40,156, and an 11% raise would bring that salary up to $44,573. KDE also reports that with the 11% raise, the average teacher’s pay would rise to $62,576.
“It is simple, you cannot catch a kid up on math if they don’t have a math teacher,” Gov. Beshear said. “And we cannot remain competitive with other states if we don’t pay our teachers what they are worth.”
The Governor said the raise was fair because, while he was proud that state employees received a much-needed and deserved 14% pay raise over the past two years, educators only received an average of 3% last year, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association.
Fully Funding Pre-K
The Governor’s plan calls for funding universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds so every child is kindergarten-ready. If adopted by the General Assembly, this would be a first-time investment by the state.
“Early childhood education is proven to make sure children have long-term academic success, and funding it is the No. 1 most effective thing we can do to get people back to work,” Gov. Beshear said. “Others know this, and more and more states and cities, like Cincinnati, are investing in pre-K. They are helping their students succeed while supporting new mothers and fathers to help them get back into the workforce much sooner.”
The Governor also announced his administration is doing more to support state child-care providers with an additional $50 million as part of the ongoing child-care assistance payments. This additional payment is available thanks to an influx of federal dollars, which freed up state dollars to support childcare providers.
Funds Student Transportation
The Governor’s plan fully funds student transportation. The Governor’s last budget proposal also sought to fully fund transportation, but the General Assembly failed to do so.
“We are seeing transportation issues. First, the General Assembly is not fully funding it, and second, we are not paying bus drivers enough,” Gov. Beshear said. “If you want to solve transportation issues, then we need to pay bus drivers enough.”
No Health Insurance Increase
The Governor is also fully funding teachers’ pensions and medical benefits, and there will be no health insurance premium increases for school employees.
“We are going to hold down their health insurance costs with no increases,” Gov. Beshear said. “This will be the fourth straight year that these employees will have no insurance premium increase.”
Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness
A student loan forgiveness program will help teachers pay for their education and for continuing their education. The program will provide a maximum $3,000 annual award for each year of employment in a Kentucky public school as a teacher.
Support for Professional Development
The Governor continues to support teacher professional development by restoring past cuts by the General Assembly.
“We require professional development; we must fund it,” Gov. Beshear said. “And it is through these programs that our educators learn the newest techniques to address learning loss and secure better outcomes.”
Replacing Textbooks and Instructional Resources
The Governor is making sure students have the resources they need by providing funding to replace textbooks and other instructional resources. This funding will also help restore past cuts by the General Assembly and help make sure teachers don’t have to dip into their own wallets to support their classrooms.
“This is basic. Our children cannot learn if they don’t have the resources to do so,” Gov. Beshear said.
Backing Mental Health
To make sure educators have access to training on how best to help our students with their mental health, the Governor’s budget proposal will provide funding to assemble a staff at regional Social Emotional Learning institutes.
Boosting Career and Technical Education
The Governor is dedicating $100 million in one-time grant funds to build or improve career and technical education centers.
“These are amazing programs, and that is why we’ve now invested about $245 million over two budgets to renovate and rebuild career and technical centers in high schools all over the state,” Gov. Beshear said. “This continued investment is necessary to keep building a world-class education system to keep up with the world-class companies that are betting their future on our workers.”
The Governor was joined by State Budget Director and Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet John Hicks, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Chair of the Kentucky Board of Education Lu Young.
“The Governor’s budget is affordable because the current budget, fiscal year 2024, has $1.4 billion more in revenues than in recurring spending which creates headroom for new spending, and based on current estimates we will end this year with another billion-dollar surplus,” Secretary Hicks said. “We can make these investments, and there is still plenty of space for other needs and other demands in this upcoming budget.”
“As you can imagine, this subject is personal to me,” said Lt. Gov. Coleman. “I have walked in the shoes of the educators who wake up every day with a singular purpose: to help the kids in their classrooms become better today than they were yesterday. This proposal is about, as Gov. Beshear likes to say, leading with our values. We are taking care of the people who take care of our kids.”
“This is my favorite time of year as we head back to school, but it’s an especially stressful time for the families and students in those areas where we have teacher vacancies, and vacancies for bus drivers and school staff. What we’ve heard this morning is that we’re boldly addressing the compensation for teachers and school employees, along with shoring up pensions, providing high-quality professional development, and affordable health insurance and child care,” said Young. “Thank you, Gov. Beshear, for prioritizing this funding, because investing in Kentucky public schools is an investment in the future of our children.”