Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Random Thoughts about the Legislative Session

Below are just some of my thoughts regarding the important and sometimes, difficult conversations and legislative action taking place in Lincoln. I realize very, very few people care about what some yahoo in York thinks, but here it goes....

1) Adequate and sustainable funding of K-12 education is imperative for the future of Nebraska.

2) Nebraska’s over-reliance on property taxes is NOT a school spending problem, it is a school funding problem.

3) Tax reform which reduces the over-reliance on local property taxes is necessary to balance the tax burden for all Nebraska citizens.

4) The national average of K-12 funding that comes from state sources is 47%, while Nebraska K-12 schools only receive 33% of their funding from state sources.

5) The national average of K-12 funding that comes from local property taxes is 29%, while here in Nebraska, that figure is sky-high at 49% due to our flawed system.

6) “Balancing” the state’s budget by slowing and cutting aid to K-12 schools only serves to increase our state’s over-reliance on local property taxes.

7) For this 2016-17 school year, 170 of the state’s 245 school districts are non-equalized as they receive no equalization aid because the TEEOSA formula says they have enough “local resources” (property taxes) to educate their children.

8) Nebraska’s public schools are producing tremendous outcomes and are the envy of many states. However, we still need to improve every day, every week, every month, and every year!

9) Nebraska’s high school graduation rate is one of the highest in the country and continues to be well-above the national average (88.9%). (Source: National Center for Education Statistics. Common Core of Data)

10) A large percent of Nebraska students take the ACT college entrance exam and score above the national average. With 88% of 11th graders taking the ACT, the average score was 21.5, ranking #1 among the 15+ states where most students take the ACT. (Source: ACT, 2015)

11) 69% of Nebraska high school graduates go to college, ranking 7th for the highest college-going rate nationally (Source: Nebraska Department of Education, 2016).

12) In a time where most seem to thirst for “change,” public schools are doing more with less in an ever-changing environment…career academies, before and after school programming, entrepreneurship offerings, summer enrichment, and so much more…we change and improve each year...

13) Yet challenges remain. Our economy is changing and schools must evolve to create the workforce of the future that will meet the needs of our state’s economy and allow our communities to thrive.

14) Too many of our students are facing a real and growing opportunity gap that our public schools must address to provide a high-quality education for all Nebraska students.

15) We need to expand our offerings of evidence-based strategies to support a high-quality education for all Nebraska children.
-- Early childhood education
-- Expanded learning opportunities
-- Career Education System
-- Nutrition

16) Many of us in the K-12 sector worry about some state leader’s apparent willingness to open the door for the privatization of public education...

17) If our state budget is unable to adequately fund K-12 education as it is, thus forcing school districts to be over-reliant on local property taxes, why would we look to provide state dollars for “school choice” options that don’t have the same levels of transparency and accountability that we have with publicly elected board members, annual audits, assessment requirements, and acceptance of any and all students, and so on?

18) We will hear more and more about "school choice" and how Nebraska must find a way to offer more "choices" when, quite often, what is meant, but not said, is these "choice" leaders want to privatize education to make it into a business....We already have numerous school choice options....according to data from the Nebraska Dept of Education....
-- We have 22,148 students that are using their option enrollment choice this 2016-17 school year
-- We have approximately 8,290 students using their home school choice this 2016-17 school year
-- We have thousands more students using their parochial school choice in numerous communities across the state as well

I wish the state senators the best of luck as they work hard to address the numerous important issues that face our state.

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