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By the numbers: The cost of educating our kids in Fayette County

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Posted at 3:10 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 18:12:20-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As kids head back to the classroom, it's a reminder of the village it takes to make sure they get a good education.

Everyone from teachers to cafeteria workers, and of course, don't forget the costs of bussing kids and maintaining the school buildings.

The official start to another school year got underway for the 42,000 children enrolled here in Fayette County.

"I was overwhelmed. I cried this morning and he just walked in there like he been in there," said Arionna Phillips, mother of Kindergartner, Amir.

"I wasn't ready," said mother Andrea Harrod, who has kids in second grade and a sophomore in high school. "I wanted her to stay home, but she was ready. And she loves her school and all of her teachers here so it's okay."

And it is all happening under the watchful eye of Superintendent Dr. Demetrus Liggins. He is in his second year with the district and says there are many wins for the kids, and he is excited to celebrate. But he says there still remains lots to get done!

"It requires all of us to make sure school is running well," Dr. Liggins said.

Some of the wins include higher wages for hourly workers, 15 new school principals, a new school building for Tates Creek High School, and covering the cost to feed every child in 49 of the school districts, both breakfast and lunch, every day!

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"This is based off of the overall economic status of most of the students on the campus," said Dr. Liggins. "So, the majority of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, but because of that, we applied for a federal grant, and 100% of the students eat breakfast and lunch for free."

And this transfers back to the classroom where the most important stuff happens... learning!

"We are coming out of a year where there were lots of quarantines for teachers and staff, and so we are still working on that learning loss and make sure we can solidify the necessary instruction and learning that our students need in order for them to continue being successful," Dr. Liggins said.

None of the parents we talked to said they were worried about COVID. We also didn't hear any complaints about the required school supply lists being too costly due to inflation.

"They've always done really well here, so I've never had concerns," said Harrod.

"Some people told me it was going to be expensive, but I found it to be pretty easy," said Ericka Morton, the mother of a 3rd grader.

While the district is fully staffed with qualified and dedicated teachers, there are challenges when it comes to finding teachers and staff for special education as well as hard-to-fill areas like high school math and science.

But for Bryne Jacobs, the new principal at Lexington Traditional Magnet School, it is what you gain on the first day that helps to motivate his team to get the job done!

"The best part of teaching school and working in a school is the fresh start we get every single year regardless of how last year ended," said Jacobs. "We have the opportunity to grow and get better and to start fresh."

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So, how many tax dollars does it take daily to educate and transport a student in Fayette County? Well, the number might surprise you.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, in 2021, it took per child in Kentucky $17,307 to cover education costs.

Here in Fayette County, district officials say the numbers break down this way per child: To provide classroom instruction and supplies... $12,259. Transporting students costs $2,235 per child, because it includes the purchase of buses, gas, maintenance, drivers, and monitor pay along with maintaining the buildings and grounds.

But all say it is a price tag that is well worth the investment into Lexington's future.