April 13, 2016

A Tale of Two Kentuckys

The future of the Commonwealth and America rests squarely on the shoulders of today’s young people. That is why we are appealing to the leadership of this state to invest further in the students of Kentucky. 


Governor Bevin called for a more financially secure Kentucky. We believe that one of the best ways to do this is to enable hard-working, low-income students to attend college and help them reach their full potential. 


For years now, both Democrats and Republicans have moved tens of millions of dollars from the College Access Program and Kentucky Tuition Grant, scholarships designated for low-income students, to pay for other state expenditures. State law says 55% of the revenue from the Kentucky Lottery must go to CAP and KTG grants, but over the past five years, the programs have been underfunded by a combined average of $28 million a year. 


As of today, only six states use their lottery funds for their statutorily-correct purpose. Governor Bevin and state legislators now have the opportunity to make Kentucky the seventh state to do so and serve as an inspiring example to the rest of the nation in the process. 


In his 1984 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, New York Governor Mario Cuomo said that although the United States aspires to be a shining city on a hill, “the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory.” He noted that across the city there are many students who “can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.” In this way, Cuomo argued, America is more a “Tale of Two Cities” than a “Shining City on a Hill.” 


This decades-old message still resonates, as there are thousands of students in Kentucky now who are denied the scholarships they need to attend school. 


There is a clear choice before the elected leaders of the Commonwealth: Do they wish to make Kentucky a “city” that shines brightly, by supporting the students most in need? Or do they wish to create a Kentucky where only a privileged minority can afford a higher education? 


President Ronald Reagan said that he envisioned the shining city on hill as a place, “teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace... and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart.” By investing in Kentucky’s students, Governor Bevin, the House, and the Senate can together move Kentucky one step closer to realizing this highest aspiration.  


We urge Governor Bevin and our legislators to keep the future of Kentucky’s students in mind as they finish the 2016 session. 

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is an independent, youth-led, statewide organization that supports students as research, policy, and advocacy partners to ensure Kentucky’s education system is as equitable, just, and as excellent as it can be. Until 2021, it was part of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky—early childhood through postsecondary.