Smith hopeful that legislators will increase funding

OJ Stapleton Editor

February 24, 2014

Russellville Independent superintendent Leon Smith spent a couple days in Frankfort last week meeting with legislators and had the chance to talk to them about the need for additional funding for schools across the state.

Because state funding, primarily in the form of SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funds, has been drastically decreased in recent years, local school districts have had to dip into reserves in order to keep up the current level of education.

And if the trend of dwindling support from the state government isn’t reversed, the budget shortfall could begin to adversely affect schools here in Russellville and Logan County.

“We’ll take steps backward if the legislators don’t do some things this time with the budget,” Smith said.

Smith praised our local representatives for keeping education at the forefront.

“We’re finding a lot of support from our representative Martha Jane King,” Smith said. “She has always been really supportive of education, as has our state senator, Whitney Westerfield. We’re appreciative that they have always kept education at the top of the agenda.”

One thing that has been proposed during the current legislative session is to increase SEEK funding by two percent with that extra money being earmarked for raises to all teachers across the state.

“The numbers that we’re running though, it’s going to cost us about an additional $100,000 if they were to do that,” Smith said. “We agree that teachers need the money though. With everything that they are paying in for health insurance and so on, they have actually gone back in the net income the last three or four years.”

Smith said that legislators are discussing other alternatives to still give teachers a pay raise without forcing additional costs on to the local school districts.

“We’re excited that they are looking at it and tossing around ideas into the best way to give the money to the districts,” Smith said. “There’s not an easy solution though and I don’t envy the job they are doing.”