TO: Education Committee, Senator Lynn Walz, Chairperson
RE: LB 890
Chairwoman Walz and members of the Education Committee,
My Name is Kyle Fairbairn, and I represent the Greater Nebraska Schools Association (GNSA) which is an organization that represents 25 of the largest school districts in the state of Nebraska. These 25 districts represent about 75% of all the children in the state attending public schools.
I come to you today in support of LB 890. I want to take a moment to thank Senator Walz and her staff on the introduction of this bill. Over the past 6 months I have watched the work put forward to bring this bill to fruition. Senator Walz and her staff have worked tirelessly with Columbus Public Schools personnel to work on the issues. They have presented to public schools across the state, had meetings with outside organizations, one on one meetings with numerous Senators, and taken ideas from all these meetings to make a better bill. The amount of work put in to bring a bill forward is unbelievable, not only this bill but all the bills that you as Senators work on during the year. We do not always agree on every bill but the work is appreciated.
It has been said many times over the last few years in this Legislature that the large schools that I represent in GNSA would never compromise on property tax issues and sending state money to rural schools. LB 890 along with its sister bill (LB 891) that will have its hearing in the Revenue Committee on Wednesday does both things. The new formula would bring state revenue to all public schools serving children in the state of Nebraska. It would also reduce property taxes for all property owners in the state dramatically. This does not come without a cost to the State of Nebraska’s overall budget but would change the dynamic of school finance.
I looked this week at the updated school spending per state on public education on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website. The latest information available on the site rates Nebraska as 49 in state support for schools only behind New Hampshire by ½%. The state is also 48th in percent of funding per state through property taxes behind only New Hampshire and Connecticut. This bill along with LB981 would move the state up into the top 25. That would also create a large deduction in property tax support of schools.
It is very difficult for schools that I serve who are dependent on TEEOSA funding to educate all the children they serve to talk about changing the current funding formula. These two bills working together do make serious changes to school funding. The two bills as introduced reduce reliance on property taxes and get state funding to all schools. GNSA hopes that Senators will not try to change these bills to eliminate the strong support from a majority of public schools across the state.