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Nebraska schools brace for $32 million in state aid cuts PDF Print E-mail

By Jan Rahn

Managing Editor

The state’s public schools have achieved a victory for now, knowing, however, there will be major cuts in state aid for the 2010-11 school year as a result of Legislative Bill 5 addressing a projected $334 million budget shortfall next year in tax revenue.

The news comes on the heels of a special session of the Nebraska Legislature who met in November to solve the state’s budget crisis. 

At the urging of the Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA), lawmakers left untouched the $933 million state aid package committed for this year—a critical goal of NSEA— who also presented a plea that the $965 million state aid package for 2010-11 be cut as minimally as possible.

“They left this year’s alone,” said Superintendent Tobin Buchanan of Perkins County Schools, with a tone of relief in his voice.

Buchanan figures the district could lose as much as $422,000 compared to this year’s state aid certification which was slightly under $785,000. Based on one of the models the state used to project state aid for 2010-11, the Perkins County District could receive $362,600.

Buchanan said he believes the main factor for the decrease is based on the valuation in the district.

Buchanan said the state created two models to give the schools an idea of the impact they might expect for next term. It’s appreciated, he said, but doesn’t really mean anything because the models are just an idea of what the state aid funding might be.

“The state aid cut for 2010-11 will cause pain and program cuts,” said NSEA President Jess Wolf. “But the cuts to state aid could have been much, much deeper.” State aid is based on a complicated formula and the information required from each district, including valuation, spending and student population.

Introduced by Senator Greg Adams of York, LB5 would reduce state aid to school districts pursuant to the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act. 

“I believe the Legislature needs to make it clear to school districts that any cuts that result from leveling this state aid be made as far from the classroom as possible,” said Senator Amanda McGill of Lincoln.

“A high school junior does not benefit if the pre-calculus class or the computer class she had hoped to take is cut and then restored after she has graduated,” said McGill. “The fact is that our children have one chance at a quality education, and we, the Legislature, have an obligation to provide that education.”