A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kelly Harper: Kids rely on state budget for a quality education; we must advocate for adequate funding

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In 2018, the Kentucky legislature will be crafting the next state budget for the upcoming two years. While pension reform plans have been the major topic of discussion recently, Kentucky is also facing potential budget cuts that pose a real threat to adequate funding for our schools and supports for students.

As we look for what our students need, the primary school funding formula – or SEEK funding – needs protected from any budget cuts. And the funding for the many support services that help students achieve need funded to avoid creating a negative ripple effect that could keep students from being on track to become successful adults.

One of the positive ripples of success for Kentucky’s public-school children and their families has been the implementation of the Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSC). These were established as part of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act.

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“Since the implementation of KERA, the FRYSC component has been essential in assisting students to reach their maximum potential. The students of Kentucky would suffer if FRYSC funding is reduced. School districts have been creative with programming so that students realize the maximum benefit.”

Dale Brown

Director of College and School Relations at Western Kentucky University

Retired superintendent and KYA board member
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The primary goal of FRYSCs is to remove barriers to learning in order to enhance student academic success through early learning and successful transition to school, academic achievement and well-being, and graduation and transition into adult life. These can be in the form of making referrals to health and social services, providing preschool and after-school child and day care, training and supporting kinship care givers, etc. And they are seeing positive results in graduation and attendance outcomes for their more vulnerable students – those living in poverty.

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“As a DPP, our goal is to provide wrap-around services to students who have barriers to attendance and high achievement. Our FRYSC coordinator is our first line of attack in providing those services. She helps with food, clothing, rapid relocation for families who lose their homes, dental services and countless other things. She also provides family education through sponsored programming. Because of her targeted, specific work, our attendance improved district-wide by .5% last year and is heading towards another improvement. That would not be happening without our FRYSC.”

Alan Spade

Director of Pupil Personnel
Frankfort Independent Public Schools
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In 2016, 1,181 schools and 626,696 students across Kentucky were served by a Family or Youth Service Center. For a school to be eligible for a FRYSC, 20% or more of enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.  Principals report that their students can only learn and thrive when these centers can meet their basic needs – both during and outside of the school day.

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“Our Youth Service Center is a vital part of our school from providing school supplies to our students, after school tutoring, parenting classes, transportation for parents, and the backpack program to feed our kiddos on weekends and long breaks. We would be lost without them.”

Lucia Hughes

Principal, Henry County Middle School
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“Our YSC coordinator ensures our students’ needs are met on a daily basis. Whether it’s food, clothing, or supplies. Our students never go without.”

Kymberly Rice

Principal, Western Middle School

Jefferson County Public Schools
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The outreach to families goes above and beyond what can be provided for a successful day at school for a child. They can be integral in providing tools for families’ survival so that their children won’t have the added stress of worrying about what they will be going home to after school lets out.

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“FRYSC’s help to ensure the continual success of our students, especially those in poverty. In one of the counties I work with, a student and their family didn’t have the money to pay their electric bill or water bill, therefore their electric and water were cut off to their home. The FRYSC found out about this and took gas (for a generator) and jugs of water to this student and their family so that they could have water to drink/bathe/cook with, as well as electricity to hold them over until they could get their bills caught up.”

Sondra Hall

Service Coordinator, Estill, Powell, Lee counties

Berea College Partners for Education
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Sadly, according to the Kentucky FRYSC 2016 Status Report, while the number of students receiving free lunch has incrementally risen from 2008 to 2017 by over 70,000 students, the FRYSC per student allocation has decreased. Fortunately, most Kentucky lawmakers realize the necessary role that these centers play in providing stability and critical resources for our students to be able to learn.

As the budget forces the legislature to make tough decisions, we ask that the budget continue to make educational investments like maintaining appropriate SEEK funding and FRYSC allocations to provide an equitable and high-quality education for every student from one side of the Commonwealth to the other.

View a one-pager on Kentucky state budget investments in kids here.

Kelly Harper is Outlook and Youth Engagement Director for Kentucky Youth Advocates.

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