Editor's Note: This piece is part of a series on how the proposed budget may affect Simpson County. Gov. Matt Bevin's office responded to a request for comment by asking for specific questions, but did not provided answers by press time. The Franklin Favorite will continue following this story as it develops.
Education could face cuts in several areas under Gov. Matt Bevin's budget proposal, but Simpson County Schools' administrators count the recommended elimination of Community Education funding among their chief concerns.
"In Simpson County, Community Education supports and facilitates a variety of programs that impact, for the most part, people of all ages," Simpson County Community Education (SCCE) Director Robin Hollingsworth said. "Last year, we served over 1,000 participants through our activities, and can account for approximately 33,000 volunteer hours."
Kentucky's House of Representatives recently voted to maintain most Community Education funding in their own proposal (HB 200), with the Senate set to review it as the budget continues developing.
According to documents provided by Hollingsworth, Community Education programs are currently allocated $1.9 million from the general budget through a line item, with an additional $36,400 for training. The funding is distributed in $20,000 grants to each program as salary through the Kentucky Department of Education. From there, the programs generate an estimated $20 million per year through grants, service fees and more.
HB 200 would see the line item reduced by $50,000, while the governor's proposal eliminates it entirely.
"When you remove the $20,000 grant, that leaves a considerable amount of funding that has to come from somewhere else in a district already looking at potential cuts to transportation, retirement and more," Hollingsworth said. "There's so much pressure on the education budget, but I believe our administrators will do everything possible to keep [Simpson County Community Education] serving this community."
Hollingsworth said HB 200 would effectively leave $0 for professional development training, and the remaining cuts would come from all directors' salaries (an estimated at $500-600 decrease) or by eliminating funding for roughly three Community Education programs statewide.
"Simpson County would not be one of those counties," Hollingsworth said. "I think our leadership and administration will do everything they can for us not to be one of those programs. We still have to convince our senators to let us keep our line item."
SCCE's existence allows a full-time director to network throughout Franklin-Simpson and organize instruction outside of a traditional classroom setting, such as an ongoing engineering partnership with FSMS.
"Community Education was instrumental in working with the 4-H office five years ago when we wrote a grant for approximately $16,000 that brought in LEGO robotic technology and laptops," Hollingsworth said. "That allowed … all 200 sixth graders [to learn] engineering and design concepts. We're working with the school to write another grant to try and replace that technology."
According to Hollingsworth, SCCE participated in 71 external collaborations during the 2016-17 school year. They work with organizations ranging from the Lion's Club to the Gallery on the Square.
"There are approximately 2,000 students involved in activities and projects we facilitate in the schools," Hollingsworth said. "For example, I do chicken incubation, where I teach classes the life cycle of embryology and the nutritional benefits of eggs. In our younger grades, it's amazing how many kids think the chicken nuggets from McDonalds originated there."
Other initiatives that started through SCCE collaboration include People Serving People's annual Thanksgiving dinner and Simpson County Schools' Backpack Program to help feed hungry children outside of school hours.
"The Backpack Program costs close to $24,000 a year, and we facilitate the fundraising," Hollingsworth said. "Of course, it's made possible by the community's willingness to support it."
Through its location at the Beasley House, SCCE also provides a home for various local meetings, along with classes such as yoga and Chinese cooking. Daughters of the American Revolution, the Franklin Garden Club and Rotary Club's board are among the groups that use the meeting space.
"Community Education in itself is not a program. It's a philosophy; it's a culture," Hollingsworth said. "What we impact isn't always tangible on paper or physically to the eye, but when we're gone, you start to feel the ripple effect. I think the loss is going to be tremendous if SCCE doesn't exist anymore."
Before any action is taken on a state budget, each chamber of the legislature must also submit a proposal, with all options considered as part of the final negotiation. Simpson County residents can voice support or concerns regarding items in a budget proposal by calling representatives and senators through the legislative hotline at 1-800-372-7181.