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School Board Members Deserve Our Praise and Support

May 2017 Article in NP Telegraph

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We have a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect for school board members. Let’s face it, our school boards, and school board members across this state help make Nebraska a great place to live.  They have accepted the challenge of providing a quality education to the children of their local community to prepare them to be productive responsible citizens.

As parents, teachers, principals, and superintendent, we’ve been lucky to work with and for school boards all across Nebraska, and have found them all to be very conscientious, inquisitive, and dedicated to the children of their communities.  One common thread of each school board we’ve worked with or for is “PRIDE” in their school and community.   They understand the important connection that communities and their public schools share.   

School board members are extremely accountable, just like the school districts they serve. 

Among all of their other duties they have to ensure their school district adheres to state mandated spending and tax levy lids; follows all of the Nebraska Department of Education “Rule 10” guidelines that are laid out for public schools to meet or exceed; maintains all of the policies that meet special education guidelines, assessment and accountability measures, and deal with more “red tape” than most folks can imagine. While doing that they must remain accountable, as locally elected officials, to their patrons to provide a high quality education for students while also being wary of the “local tax burden.”

There is much ‘chatter’ across the state as to who is to blame.   School board members are not to blame for high property taxes.  Low levels of state funding for education is at the heart of Nebraska’s property tax issues, not school spending. 

The 2015 Legislative Fiscal Office report showed that school spending growth over the past decade was at its lowest level in the past 30 years.  A number of districts have average annual spending increases of less than 1.6%. North Platte School District average annual spending is 2.02% over the last 11 years.

Nebraska ranks 49th in the country in the percentage of K-12 funding that comes from the state.  Nebraskans pay the 7th highest effective property tax rate in the nation. 

Our school board members don’t have a school spending problem.  Our state has a “school funding” problem. 

Nebraska K-12 schools receive 33% of their funding from state sources while the national average is 47%.  

Nebraska K-12 schools receive 49% of their funding from local property taxes while the national average is 29%. 

We need to reform the way Nebraska’s schools are funded, with significantly less reliance on our local property taxes.

We need our elected officials inside the Capitol including the Governor and the 49 Senators, many of whom made campaign promises of lowering your local property taxes, to stay true to their word.  Let’s work to adequately fund our public schools without such an extreme over-reliance on our local property taxes.