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**Kentucky Taxpayers’ Bucks: Analyzing K-12 Spending Efficiency by the Bluegrass Institute**

For Immediate Release: Monday, February 12, 2024

Contact: Jim Waters @ (270) 320-4376

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – This June will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the landmark [image] decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court, which highlighted the commonwealth’s failure to comply with the state constitution’s mandate for an effective system of common schools statewide.

A recent policy brief issued today by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free-market think tank, reveals a concerning trend in the efficiency of Kentucky’s education system following the implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) in response to the Rose ruling.

The analysis, which evaluates fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math test scores per $1,000 of per pupil expenditures – adjusted for inflation to provide an accurate depiction of K-12 spending trends over time – demonstrates a consistent decrease in the return on investment for taxpayers in public education since the adoption of KERA as the state’s educational policy.

Author John Garen, Ph.D., a distinguished BB&T Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Kentucky and a member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars, notes, “These declines are primarily attributed to the substantial rise in funding relative to the minor improvements in test scores, indicating a significant decline in the efficiency of K-12 funding.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Productivity levels in 2022 ranged from 47% to 64% of the levels observed in the 1990s, depending on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test utilized.
  • The productivity decline has shown a consistent downward trajectory from the 1990s to 2022, with a temporary increase observed post the Great Recession (2009-2013) primarily driven by a short-term funding reduction.
  • Overall, the diminishing productivity underscores a notable deterioration in the efficacy of funding in translating into improved performance in basic skills tests.

Jim Waters, President of the Bluegrass Institute, emphasized, “This data-driven assessment contributes to the mounting body of evidence indicating that despite increased budget allocations towards public education in Kentucky, the state is progressively moving away from its constitutional obligation to provide an efficiently effective system benefiting both students and taxpayers. It reinforces the longstanding belief among reform advocates that mere financial increments do not inherently lead to a superior education system.”

Waters further stated, “To fulfill its constitutional responsibility to students and taxpayers, Kentucky must embrace more alternatives, enhance accountability, and promote educational freedom.”

For further details, please reach out to author John Garen at [image] or Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters at [image] or 270.320.4376 (cell).