Saturday, October 06, 2001

Districts differ over funding

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT, Ky. — Ten years after it was launched, a funding scheme designed to help “property poor” school districts keep up with affluent districts has achieved virtual equity, according to a study of the system.

        Differences in revenue per pupil are relatively small from district to district, “and the link between property wealth and revenue per pupil is essentially gone,” according to the report, which was delivered Friday to the Kentucky Board of Education.

        Superintendents of some small, independent districts disagree. They contend the report's idea of equity — approximately equal amounts of money per pupil — is flawed because it ignores differences in tax rates. Nor does it account for what some districts can raise from “permissive taxes” on utilities and local incomes or from payments in lieu of taxes on federally owned property.

        Districts that have to rely on residential property taxes, and have raised tax rates for the sake of their schools, are penalized, said Fred Bassett, superintendent of the Beechwood Independent School District in Fort Mitchell.

        “You have an equitable system when different school districts that have the same tax rates get the same amount of money for the same kinds of kids,” said Mr. Bassett.

        Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit conceded that the system has “quirks.”

        The report, commissioned by the Department of Education, was a 10-year study of Kentucky's school funding program, which goes by the name of Supporting Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK).

        The report concludes only that SEEK funding is fairly well balanced from district to district. It draws no conclusions about whether funding is adequate.


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