Superintendents, including CCPS’s Howard, say they can’t provide fair raises for teachers

Published 4:30 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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By Gillian Stawiszynski

Bluegrass Newsmedia

Concerned Central Kentucky superintendents gathered in a Scott County High School to hear a presentation by the hosting Superintendent Billy Parker on the impact of House Bill 6 on raises for school employees. 

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The Kentucky House passed House Bill 6 (HB6) and is now in the Senate. 

There is good in HB6, as explained by Parker, but this budget needs to address raises for teachers and staff and, therefore, address the pre-existing and growing issue of the qualified teacher shortage. 

Gov. Andy Beshear proposed an 11 percent raise for school employees in the governor’s budget. Still, with HB6’s current language, all central Kentucky districts will be able to provide about a two percent raise in the 2024-25 school year and only about a zero to one percent raise in the 2025-26 school year.

“It’s not about hiring a great principal or superintendent or building a beautiful building; it’s about the teacher that spends 176 days with their kids. And pours into them. As much, if not more, than their grandparents and parents. We’ve got to start putting the money in our teachers’ pockets. That’s why I’m here– to advocate for our teaching staff,” said Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Dustin Howard.

As the meeting was held on Valentine’s Day, Parker started by sharing his appreciation for Kentucky legislators, so did Howard.

“I feel like our legislators have done some very good things and I want to start by saying with this House Bill 6, they solved the transportation issue 100 percent and they stepped up. They’re adding to the seek base; they’re giving us money for buildings. So there’s a lot of good things,” he said. 

HB6 will ensure public school transportation will receive 100 percent of its funding from the state. 

The budget provides record investments in the TRS (Teachers Retirement System) pension program and the medical insurance trust fund. HB6 also maintains full-day Kindergarten funding. 

HB6 increases the overall department of education budget by $484 million over a biennium which will support an increase in the state portion of employee health insurance, and increase of the state portion of the TRS employer match, and support for the employee liability insurance that passed last session.

None of the above funding goes to the district, and therefore can’t be used for teacher and staff salaries.


Facility Equalization Funding has also been increased by $43.1 million in HB6. But these funds are restricted to construction projects.

However, there is much in the budget that concerns the superintendents. 

SEEK, or Support Education Excellence in Kentucky is one of the main funding mechanisms for school districts which can be used for raises. It is made up of a combination of local property taxes and state funds. Since 2001, state funding has steadily decreased as local contributions have increased but the state operating budget– thanks to taxpayers– has doubled since 2008, going from $23 million to $51 million.

Each district’s general fund, which can be used to fund raises, is made up of the SEEK base, tier 1 and transportation. Although there is an increase in per-pupil SEEK funding this school year, over the biennium, there will actually be a decrease in state funding of $42 million. 

Even at an 11 percent raise, a starting salary at Powell County Schools would equal $43,639. This is still lower than the starting salary of states that Parker says our legislators look to for governing and funding guidance. 

Right now, Kentucky schools have an average starting salary of $38,010. Tennessee legislators have funded their school districts to allow for a $50,000 starting salary over the next four years. Arkansas legislators have funded its school districts, calling for a $50,000 minimum starting salary. 

Due to inflation, the purchasing power of teachers’ salaries is “losing ground,” according to Parker. In the 2019-2020 school year, before the pandemic, a first-year teacher in Scott County made $38,763. In the 2023-2024 school year, a first-year teacher in Scott County makes $41,281.

That $41,281 today has the same buying power as $34,583 in the 2019-2020 school year. That includes the raises the Scott County school district has been able to provide. 

Yet, there is language in the budget that may suggest school districts are getting significant increases and threats of school closures and district mergers if improvements in hiring and retention are not made.

“Significant improvements in hiring require significant investment,” Parker said. 

Parker presented some opportunities for legislative support for a solution to this issue. 

Superintendents are calling for the state to reinvest SEEK excess in K-12 education during the current school year that the excess exists. 

The only reason this excess exists is because part of the SEEK formula requires 100 percent student attendance, and if that isn’t achieved, money is taken from the district. This amount is projected to be more than $160 million this fiscal year, 2024. Last year’s excess was simply swept back into the general fund. 

Superintendents are also calling for the state to maintain its commitment to the teacher pension system while exploring ways to provide more recurring funding for raises. 

The presentation ended with a proposal from the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents calling for a higher SEEK base amount- including a 7.1 percent raise in 2024-2025 and a 6.7 percent raise in 2025-2026. 

“As a superintendent, we’re in buildings every day. And we understand that if we don’t compensate our teachers, we lose teachers. And that’s not just our thoughts. That’s what is happening. They’re finding other professions; they’re going out of state. So, just like SEEK, it’s a formula to provide excellence and education for Kentucky. So we have to pay a fair wage and a living wage to our folks who are on the front line providing a world-class education.” Howard said. 

After saying, “Go Cards!” Howard added that this is not a partisan issue and that community members concerned about almost non-existent raises still have time to call their senators and representatives as HB6 is still in the Senate.