FRANKFORT, Kentucky — Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is warning that school districts will have to cut up to 2,000 teachers and teaching assistants if lawmakers don't restore school funding cuts.
Media reported that Holliday made the comments Wednesday during a break at the state Board of Education meeting.
The Department of Education has asked lawmakers for $336 million more in state funding for the 2014-16 budget biennium to restore funding to pre-recession levels.
Holliday says tax reform and expanded gambling could provide more revenue for the state to use for education.
"There's going to be layoffs," Holliday said, noting both federal and state cuts in education funding. "By next March or April, we predict 10 to 12 districts will fail to meet their basic financial commitment and we will see pink slips like we've never seen before."
How each district would be affected remains to be seen.
Jefferson County Public Schools' spokesman Ben Jackey said budget planning is still in the early stages, but there's been no mention of layoffs.
Oldham County Superintendent Will Wells said the district doesn't expect job cuts next year because it eliminated 30 teacher positions this year, cut spending and raised local taxes.
But "if the legislators don't get serious about reforming our tax code and generating more revenue for education, our kids' future is on the chopping block." Wells said. "They've got to stop playing politics."
Pike County Schools' Superintendent David Lester said layoffs there were likely.
"I don't know the depth of those at this point, but I know that we have lost some students and that will translate into a staff reduction," he said.
Lawmakers have said they would like to restore funding cuts to school districts if possible.
House Budget Chairman Rick Rand, D-Bedford, said he doesn't know how much funding will be available for education, but the House will do everything possible to help prevent large-scale layoffs.
K-12 education "will have the highest priority in the Kentucky House," he said. "Exactly what that will mean is almost impossible to predict today."