The House of Representatives has released House Bill 6, its initial budget proposal for the next two fiscal years.
Here, I’ll summarize the major education elements, including action on the Prichard Committee’s Big Bold Ask and some continuing questions about how the limited step up for child care will work for children and the workforce. Readers can also download our more detailed looks at three parts of HB 6, one each for early childhood, P-12 learning, and postsecondary education.
The two-year budget being constructed now will include 2026 spending and tell us how far Kentucky has moved on the seven elements of the Big Bold Ask. As always, the Kentucky House and Senate can be expected to amend the current bill, but here’s how the current edition addresses those issues for the 2026 fiscal year.
In postsecondary education, HB 6 exceed the Big Bold Ask’s call to invest in CAP need-based financial aid, and it comes quite close to the call for added investment in public higher education institutions.
In K-12 education, HB 6 fully funds all-day kindergarten and comes close to fully funding school transportation costs. The added investment in teaching excellence is valuable, though not close to the Big Bold Ask recommendation.
Early childhood, however, receives very little new investment. HB 6 will increase the state contribution to the Child Care Assistance Program by $52 million, or about one-fifth of the Big Bold Ask, and state preschool will receive no increase at all compared to FY 2020 funding.
The child care proposal also leaves important questions about how the program will work as federal pandemic funding comes to an end.
HB 6 earmarks most of the new dollars as being to keep recently improved rates per child, but that leaves other questions unanswered.
The Prichard team will be working to learn more about the plan, starting with two major puzzles:
• In July 2023, 37,635 children received CCAP support, according to a briefing offered by the Division of Child Care to an interim legislative committee. Does HB 6 provide enough money to continue serving all those children? If not, how far will participation drop, and how will that affect their parents’ workforce participation?
• In past years, CCAP parents were required to make income-based copayments, covering part of the cost of their children’s care. More recently, federal recovery dollars freed families from those copayments. Is HB 6 based on a return of the old copayment schedule, a lower copayment schedule, or no copayments at all?
You can review the full text of House Bill 6 to see further detail and planned investments in other fields.
Written by Susan Perkins Weston, who is a Senior Fellow of the Prichard Committee for Education Excellence where she analyzes Kentucky data and policy.