Calculation of the Cost of an Adequate Education in Kentucky: A Professional Judgment Approach

Deborah A. Verstegen


What is an adequate education and how much does it cost? In 1989, Kentucky’s State Supreme Court found the entire system of education unconstitutional-“all of its parts and parcels”. The Court called for all children to have access to an adequate education, one that is uniform and has as its goal the development of seven capacities, including: (i) “sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization . . . .and (vii) sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market”. Now, over a decade later, key questions remain regarding whether these objectives have been fulfilled. This research is designed to calculate the cost of an adequate education by aligning resources to State standards, laws and objectives, using a professional judgment approach. Seven focus groups were convened for this purpose and the scholarly literature was reviewed to provide multiple inputs into study findings. The study produced a per pupil base cost for each of three prototype school districts and an total statewide cost, with the funding gap between existing revenue and the revenue needed for current operations of $1.097 billion per year (2001-02). Additional key resource requirements needed to achieve an adequate education, identified by professional judgment panels, include: (1) extending the school year for students and teachers, (2) adding voluntary half-day preschool for three and four year olds, and (3) raising teacher salaries. This increases the funding gap to $1.23 billion and suggests that significant new funding is required over time if the Commonwealth of Kentucky is to provide an adequate and equitable education of high quality for all children and youth as directed by the State Supreme Court.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Deborah A. Verstegen

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