Sunday, August 20, 2017

Coal industry's decline leaves E.Ky. schools crying for help, but lawmakers focus on state pensions

Stinnett Elementary School (H-L photo by Michael Reaves)
The decline of the coal industry in Appalachian Kentucky has school districts "struggling to keep the doors open," reports Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The industry's poor prospects have caused devaluation of unmined coal, cutting tax revenue, and "Education officials are calling on Kentucky’s General Assembly to look for new ways to fund" the coalfield districts.

“If they don’t come up with something we may survive this year. But then we will either be running in the red or we will have to shut down,” Knott County Supt. Kim King told Spears. Harold Morgan, assistant school-finance director in Leslie County, "said students in third through ninth grade have Chromebooks — laptop devices — but because of the loss of money, school officials could not afford to purchase them for kindergarten through 2nd-graders or for all 10th- through 12th-graders," Spears reports

Linda Rains, the new superintendent in Leslie County, told Spears, “It’s so scary. People in Eastern Kentucky are used to being successful by pure grit, they’ve always had to depend on their determination and grit to get the job done. That’s what we’ll continue to do. But it sure would be nice to have some funds and to give these kids the same chances that all students in Kentucky have.”

But it's a bad time to be asking for help from the legislature, which is looking for money to shore up the state's pension system, by some measures the worst-funded in the nation. Sen. Chris McDaniel, chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said pension reform will have to come first. “If we don’t get pension reform there’s just no way to help them,” he told Spears.

No comments: