Beshear Proposes Funding Universal Pre-K, Teacher Raises And More In ‘Historic’ Education Budget Proposal

Three years since being elected governor in a race that hinged on the support of teachers, Gov. Andy Beshear has proposed a massive investment in statewide education, stretching from universal pre-K to needs-based college tuition funding. It also includes money for teachers, offering a 5% pay increase at minimum and student loan forgiveness. 

In total, Beshear’s budget proposal directs billions in funding to education, which he says is made possible by a $1.9 billion revenue surplus in the state’s general fund. Beshear called his proposal “historic” and “game-changing.” But, it requires approval of the Republican-led legislature, and House Republicans have already filed their own budget, which does not include universal pre-K or teacher raises. 

Beshear said that he thinks that his budget could still pass.

“It’s a chance to transform our education system for the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Beshear. “If this is just viewed as who has how much power, we’re never going to advance. And just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean that you should.”

Here are some of the most significant programs that Beshear hopes to fund:

Universal Pre-K

Beshear’s budget would fund pre-K for four year olds around the state, costing $172 million per year over the next two years. Last legislative session, the General Assembly funded universal, full-day kindergarten for one year. 

By funding pre-K, too, Beshear said, “No longer will tens of thousands of our children be left out of preschool or Headstart programs that we know provide positive outcomes on children’s early literacy and mathematics skills that foster long term educational success.”

Teacher Raises

Beshear, who campaigned on raising teacher salaries but hasn’t been able to convince the Republican legislature, is once again hoping to deliver on his promise — but with an added perk.

His salary proposal would increase teacher salaries (and that of other school personnel) by a minimum of 5% and provide $26.3 million each year for teacher student loan forgiveness. The student loan payments could be as much as $3,000 annually, capping out at $15,000. 

College Funding

In total, Beshear hopes to increase funding for colleges by 12%.

That includes $23 million for college students, including increasing funding for students in financial need through the College Access Program. With Beshear’s plan, students could receive an increased maximum of $3,100 in 2023 and $3,300 in 2024. 

The $23 million would also fund a Better Kentucky Promise Scholarship which would provide money for thousands of students to get their associate’s degree: 6,000 in the first year and 9,700 in the second.

Beshear’s budget would also set aside $500 million for 19 maintenance projects at Kentucky state colleges.

Other Education Programs 

Beshear’s proposed education budget is wide-ranging. Here are some of the other things he hopes to fund:

  • $175 million to fully fund transportation in Kentucky schools
  • A 16.9% increase in SEEK (Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky) funding for transportation, special needs students and more. This amounts to around $3.5 billion total for SEEK in 2023 and $3.6 billion in 2023.
  • An additional $397 million for SEEK per pupil funding for elementary and secondary schools
  • $11 million each year for statewide coaching and training for literacy and mathematics
  • $22.9 million for professional development and for textbooks and instructional resources 
  • $6.2 million for eight regional social/emotional learning institutes for teachers to learn how to respond to students’ mental health needs.
  • $180.4 million for career and technical education centers to renovate and to provide additional funding. 
  • $6.8 million to state-operated area technical schools
  • $14.4 million to 48 “turnaround schools” that need additional leadership, literacy and numeracy support
  • $2.5 million in grants to local libraries
  • $6 million each year for family resource and youth service centers
  • $60 million for Bucks for Brains, which goes toward research-related activities 

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