Fletcher's budget proposal seeks to increase funding for primary and secondary education by 10.5% over the next two years. That should bring in some extra dollars for Hazard Community and Technical College and the University Center of the Mountains, the latter of which is seeking recurring funds in the state's budget.
But according to recent reports, one alarming aspect of Fletcher's budget concerns anti-fraud activities that Attorney General Greg Stumbo says puts federal funding at risk. According to a release from Stumbo's office, Fletcher's budget did not allocate matching state funds that are required in order to receive federal funds for anti-fraud activities. In addition, according to a report in the Floyd County Times, Fletcher's budget will cut these funds while increasing funding to the Department of Public Advocacy by $6 million.
While the offices of Fletcher and Stumbo are embroiled in a battle concerning the merit hiring investigation which has made headlines in past months, this move to decrease funding to Stumbo's office hints at Fletcher's disdain for the merit hiring investigation. And of course this may not be the case at all, but the appearance of the cut does Governor Fletcher no favors.
A promising aspect of Fletcher's budget is the fact that he is allocating more funding to education. Hopefully, this increase will bring in more funding to educational initiatives in eastern Kentucky where these types of things are sorely needed. As the University Center of the Mountains works to bring more degrees to the region, funding such as this needs to be brought into eastern Kentucky to ensure that our residents have the same opportunities as those outside the region.
Another promising aspect of Fletcher's budget is the cost of living increase for the state's teachers. Teachers by and large are the most underpaid of all professions, and an increase in salary has been needed for some time. In addition, focusing on differentiated compensation instead of merit pay could be a step in the right direction, although we will have to wait and see how that plays out.
Governor Fletcher's proposed budget, much like any other budget, has some good things and some bad things in it, but ultimately it will be up to the legislature to weed out the bad things and keep the good. They did it last year, and perhaps they will be able to do so again this year.