Public Hearing Schedule:
October 3: Dunning
Sandhills Public School Lecture Hall
107 Gandy Ave., 1:30-3:30pm
October 7: Omaha
OPS Administration Building
3215 Cumming St., 10am-Noon
October 7: Crete
Crete High School Auditorium
1500 E. 15th St., 4-6pm
October 8: Macy
Umonhon Nation Public School
206 Main St., 1:30-3:30pm
State senators on the Legislature's Education Committee are studying ways that state aid for schools could be changed to make sure students are getting the best education.
Nebraska's state aid formula can be simply put as "Needs - Resources = Aid," but school administrators say once you start defining each district's needs and resources, the easy math ends.
"We have such diversity in our state - geographic diversity, ethnicity diversity, poverty diversity, that there are not simple solutions," says York Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Lucas.
Lucas, other school officials, teachers, and farmers shared their thoughts on the funding formula also known by its acronym TEEOSA (Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act) with the Education Committee at a public hearing in Hastings on Wednesday.
The committee is getting feedback for a report they're writing on changes they think could make state aid better.
"That's a tall challenge - to make something this complex with 249 school districts that are so very different, to end up with something that is going to be very simple," says Senator Kate Sullivan, District 41.
Just under $1 billion is going out to public schools, and with the TEEOSA formula, 114 districts are not getting state dollars since their resources outweigh their needs.
Many, including Hastings Public Schools, testified that while it is complicated and not perfect, they think the way the current formula works makes the most sense.
"I think the study the Education Committee is doing is a great idea to take a look at things, I just get nervous when they talk about just scrapping it and starting over," says HPS Finance Director Jeff Schneider.
Some school officials say they understand the need for property tax relief, but schools rely heavily on that revenue, and say it would not only need to made up somewhere else, they think the whole state aid fund needs to grow.
"They like to say it's fully funded, but it's only fully funded at what level they let it get to, so we're fighting over scarce resources, and who pays the tax burden, and that's the dialogue that just never ends," says Grand Island Public Schools Finance Director Virgil Harden.
Lucas came to the hearing representing a recently formed legislative advocacy group of 10 mid-size school districts, including York, called STANCE (Schools Taking Action for Nebraska Children's Education).
Along with increased special education and preschool funding, STANCE agrees with Harden's sentiment that the state aid "pot" needs to be larger.
"The state senators work in the allocation world, what a lot of school districts try and operate in is in a calculation world, and again, I applaud the senators for their work, our entire STANCE group does, for funding allocation, but calculation shows that we're behind where we should be," says Lucas.
The committee planned a hearing in McCook Wednesday night, and have four more scheduled through the next week.