I recently have received several inquiries about Nebraska state law regarding school district reorganization and wanted to provide an overview of how this typically takes place in our state.
There are several statutes dealing with school district boundary changes; many very complicated. I hope the following summary is helpful without delving into overwhelming detail.
Of the many processes for reorganization, three are most commonly used.
The first, and most often used, is the “board to board” process. Two or more school boards can initiate a common petition for reorganization detailing how that would take place. If the petition is agreed to by a vote of the board membership, the petition is sent to the State Committee for the Reorganization of School Districts (state committee) for review.
In the examination of the plan, the state committee must give due consideration to (1) the educational needs of local communities, (2) economies in transportation and administration costs, (3) the future use of existing satisfactory school buildings, sites, and play fields, (4) the convenience and welfare of pupils, (5) a reduction in the disparities in per pupil valuation among school districts, (6) the equalization of the educational opportunity of pupils, and (7) any other matters which, in its judgment, are of importance.
The state committee must hold one or more public hearings to hear any and all persons wishing to comment on the merits of the proposed plan. At least ten days notice must be given of these hearings.
If the petition is in order and approved by the state committee, it will be implemented per the contents of the plan.
The second process, less commonly used, is referred to as “petitions of the people.” Residents of two or more school districts can draft a reorganization petition and circulate it among the other residents of the school districts involved. At least 60% of the legal voters in the districts must sign the petition. If the signature threshold is met, the state committee will receive the petition and review it in the same manner as the “board to board” petition. Interested parties will be able to comment on the plan to the state committee at a public hearing or hearings. Notice is given at least ten days in advance of the hearing. If the state committee approves, the plan is be implemented.
A third option, also used less frequently, is known as the “plan process.” This is similar to the “board to board” process. Two or more school districts develop and agree to a common petition for reorganization. The petition is sent to the state committee for review and public hearing. If the state committee approves the plan, it is submitted to the voters of the districts involved for approval. The districts must reimburse the county or counties for the costs of the election out of their general funds. If the voters approve, the petition is implemented.
Persons interested in possible reorganizations are encouraged to provide input to their local school board representatives as well as the state committee, if a petition for reorganization is sent there for review. As of September 30th, no petitions have been received by the state committee.
I also have received inquiries about how a person could transfer their property from one school district to another school district under state law.
Property owners can petition their home school district board and the school district board they wish to move the property for possible transfer. Each school board must agree to the move.
Another possibility is if the property in question is encapsulated, or surrounded on all sides, by the school district boundaries that a person may wish to transfer. If that is the case, the property can be transferred.
Finally, a person may file a “freeholder” petition to transfer property if (1) their present district has voted to exceed the maximum levy, (2) the district’s high school (grades 9 through 12) has less than 60 students in two consecutive school years proceeding the filing of the petition, and (3) the high school of the district is within 15 miles by public highway or maintained public road of another public high school. All three conditions must be met.
If you are interested in investigating options for possible property transfer, I would recommend contacting the superintendent of the district in question.
Please contact me if you wish to further discuss these matters, or any other state matters of interest to you. I can be reached at 402.471.2625, email@example.com, or District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.