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This past week I had the pleasure of touring some of our fine schools in Dawson, Hall, Adams, York, and Platte counties to hear about how we are helping kids with dyslexia and reading literacy. Below are some news articles from that trip.
As a candidate for Legislature, I promised to fight for lower property and income taxes. As I campaigned door to door last year, I heard again and again that property taxes were much too high. People often referred to their property taxes as ridiculous. Since being elected last fall, I continue to consistently hear that property taxes are too high. I agree.
This evening, members of the Millard Public School Board will vote on whether or not to pursue a special election asking residents of the district to raise their taxes by supporting a nine-cent override of the district’s $1.05 levy for their general operating budget.
There is no doubt that Millard Public Schools offers its students an excellent quality education. Indeed, many districts look to Millard as an example. Still, elected officials have a duty to their constituents and all Nebraskans to provide accurate and transparent information about how taxpayer dollars are collected and spent.
Millard Schools are asking for this increase in tax funding even though:
1) Millard Public Schools receive more in state aid than only two other public school districts in Nebraska.
2) Only 38 of Nebraska’s 245 school districts receive more state aid per student than Millard.
3) Millard’s poverty rate is half the state average.
4) Millard property values have increased in the last two years.
5) Millard receives over twice as much state aid per student than Elkhorn Public Schools or D.C. West, who are also members of the Learning Community.
6) Millard receives almost half of its general budget from income and sales taxes on Nebraskans.
Millard Public Schools Mill Levy and TEEOSA Aid History
Property tax levy – The property tax levy shown includes bonding for school buildings. Millard is in a sweet spot as many of their buildings are paid for, but are not yet old. You will note that even with large increases in state aid in 2009/10 and 2010/11, their levy increased.
Levy Amounts and State TEEOSA Aid
Year Mill Levy Total Mill Levy TEEOSA Aid % Change in TEEOSA Aid
2001/02 1.25670 1.25670 40,349,210.84 11.64%
2002/03 1.27746 1.27746 43,617,862.27 8.1%
2003/04 1.32119 1.32119 42,473,327.80 -2.62%
2004/05 1.29890 1.29890 43,472,738.22 2.35%
2005/06 1.28995 1.28995 48,181,190.33 10.83%
2006/07 1.27958 1.27958 49,767,642.35 3.29%
2007/08 1.20999 1.20999 56,649,726.98 13.83%
2008/09 1.20997 1.20997 57,769,518.75 1.98%
2009/10 0.25000 1.20000 75,769,526.04 31.83% Start of CL
2010/11 0.26000 1.21000 87,232,779.00 15.13%
2011/12 0.26000 1.21000 72,057,188.00 -17.4%
2012/13 0.26000 1.21000 72,526,676.00 0.65%
2013/14 0.27000 1.22000 80,779,394.00 11.38%
2014/15 0.30000 1.25000 86,409,366.00 6.97%
2015/16 0.29000 1.24000 89,955,513.00 4.1%
2016/17 0.27372 1.22372 89,635,460.00 -0.36% End of CL
2017/18 75,766,971.00 -15.47%
CL (Common Levy) – Each school in the learning community shared a ninety five cent ($0.95) levy from 2009/10 until the Learning Community ended in 2016/17.
Total State Funding for Millard Public Schools
Total funding includes TEEOSA, Special Education funding, Homestead Exemption, Property Tax Credit, and State Apportionment.
From: Nebraska Department of Education Annual Financial Report (AFR) – Millard
Line 01-1-03000-000 Total State Receipts
Year Total State Receipts % Change Difference
2009/10 90,055,542.62 14.3% $12,852,651
2010/11 90,853,668.71 0.98% $798,126
2011/12 91,200,318.74 0.38% $346,650
2012/13 92,410,284.53 1.3% $1,209,965
2013/14 100,744,791.19 8.3% $8,334,506
2014/15 108,705,702.72 7.4% $7,960,911
2015/16 112,396,214.31 3.3% $3,690,512
Total State Aid amounts are only available through year 2015/16.
Total state funding has increased every year.
Below is a chart of the total amount of TEEOSA dollars each school district gets, sorted from the most aid received to the least amount of aid.
Lou Ann Linehan
State Senator, District #39
1117 State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509
402 – 471 – 2885
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lincoln, NE – May 17th, 2017 -Senator Lou Ann Linehan announced today that she will be voting to support Governor Pete Ricketts’ line-item vetoes. Linehan said, “We are here today because the Appropriations Committee lowered the amount of money in the cash reserve from 3% to 2.5%. The Committee is gambling that the economy will improve during the next twelve months. I hope they are right, but hope is not a plan. Nebraskans are prudent. The Legislature’s decisions should reflect that prudence.”
“I don’t make these veto override decisions lightly. We should have made cuts in other areas, such as the $44 million to teacher’s retirement. The retirement account is sound, and it is unfortunate that we appropriated money to it versus the cuts we are making today. In addition, TEEOSA funding for K-12 education received a 2.3% increase this year, while most everyone else has been asked to make cuts.”
“We are not broke yet, but the possibility exists that we will be back this fall for a special session to deal with budget shortfalls. We need to act responsibly today, as painful as it is, so that we have a balanced budget, as required.”
I recently received this email from Douglas County Clerk Dan Esch, I wanted to make sure the information was available to everyone so they can have a clearer view of how to make a valuation protest.
Ruth Sorensen the State Property Tax Administrator has allowed Douglas County to extended the deadline to contest your home valuations until April 3. Below is a link to this mornings Omaha World Herald article about it.
Below are the responses I have received from the letter I sent on February 6th to the groups with taxing authority in Legislative District 39 in Douglas County.
Mayor Jean Stothert
Elkhorn Public Schools
Millard Public Schools
The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties
Yesterday the Education Committee held a hearing for my bill LB 608 “the Parental Choice Scholarship Program.” Below I have provided my opening statement and the links to multiple sources of information relating to the bill that I used.
As a product of Nebraska public schools, a parent who sent each of my children to a public school in Nebraska, and a grandmother to children in public school today, I support a strong public school system. Strong public schools are a bedrock of our society and crucial to our economy. However, not every parent in Nebraska is as fortunate as I have been in accessing high performing schools. That’s why I’m introducing LB 608 “the Parental Choice Scholarship Program.”
Years ago, Nebraska embraced school choice by giving families the ability to opt into a different school from which their child was zoned, including schools outside their home district. Thousands of Nebraskans take advantage of this opportunity today, a choice fully funded by Nebraska taxpayers through the TEEOSA formula.
However, for many low-income families that choice is limited or non-existent. Higher performing public schools are at capacity, or inaccessible due to location. In my Legislative District, which wholly encompasses Elkhorn Public Schools, for the 2016-2017 school year, 87 students attempted to enroll using open enrollment from outside the district, but only 13 seats were available. There was not a single available seat in any middle or high school in Elkhorn for open enrollment. The Elkhorn public schools have been closed to enrollment option students since 1994. Their growth simple prohibits open enrollment.
Higher performing schools in OPS were also unable to meet open enrollment demands. Nearly half of all freshmen students wanting to enroll at Omaha Central High School, but zoned to another OPS school, were turned away last year. Less than 50% of the students attempting to opt in to Dundee Elementary and none of the students attempting to opt in to Saddlebrook elementary in west Omaha were successful due to lack of capacity at those schools. Clearly, there are more students and parents wanting better options than are currently afforded to them by open or option enrollment. Consequently, to say that choices aren’t currently limited due to your income or zip code is disingenuous.
If you are a parent with a child zoned to Nathan Hale, your chances of attaining a spot at Alice Buffett Middle School is extremely limited. No one tried to opt into Nathan Hale, where the most recent math and reading proficiency rate, according to NAEP, is 8%. For far too many; however, this is their only option.
Of Nebraska’s 87 “needs improvement schools,” 28 are located in OPS. According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Nebraska’s black male graduation rate is 50%, the second lowest in the country. These two facts are connected and the costs to Nebraska is staggering.
Too often, we hear that these schools are failing because of the kids and parents zoned to them. However, at 2205 Binney Street in North Omaha sits Sacred Heart School, where 93% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch and 88% of the students are non-Catholic. For the last decade, 100% of the eighth graders graduating from Sacred Heart have gone on to graduate from high school. Also located in North Omaha, is Jesuit Academy, where 98% of 8th graders go on to graduate High School.
Of the ten district elementary schools nearest to Sacred Heart and Jesuit Academy, the highest proficiency rate, according to NAEP, is 27%. The highest NEESA proficiency rate is 63%. The lowest proficiency rate according to NAEP is 7%. The lowest NESA proficiency rate is 30%.
In South Omaha’s St. Peter and Paul School, the student population grew by 28% between the 2014/15 and 2015/16 year. Their student population is 85% Latino. St. Thomas Moore and Holy Cross, also in south Omaha, saw similar gains. Many of these students are able to attend due to scholarship programs, but current requests for assistance by low-income families wanting these options exceeds charitable contributions.
Again, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Nebraska’s black male graduation rate is 50%, the second lowest in the country. This is a crisis. We are not only talking about whether or not some students graduate ready for college or career, for many this is an issue of life or death. We all know that too many high school dropouts end up in prison. We must do better.
Nebraskans are committed to K-12 education, spending almost $4 billion annually, which amounts to more than $2,000 for every person living in Nebraska, nearly $12,000 per student enrolled in public K-12 education.
The often quoted “Nebraska ranks 49th in the country in spending” which we hear again and again is misleading to the point of being dishonest. In fiscal year 2014, when looking at total per pupil spending, only 16 states spent more than Nebraska according to U.S. Census Bureau. Which I have provided for you today.
The majority of the states who spend more are located where the cost of living is much higher. Nebraskans spend more money per pupil than: Minnesota, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Virginia, Louisiana, Iowa, Washington, Kansas, Oregon, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, South Dakota, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, Nevada, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah.
We know no resource is as precious as a child’s future and nothing matters more to the future prosperity of our state than a well-educated citizenry.
We cannot wait any longer to provide options to parents whose children are zoned to schools that are not hitting the mark. Believing in public education should not, and cannot, equate to defending every building without regard for student outcomes.
LB 608 provides families zoned to the lowest performing schools in the state another option, options already available to middle class and affluent families.
The state is responsible for identifying the lowest performing schools. These schools have both low rates of proficiency and negative growth. Currently, according to Nebraska Department Education, 87 schools in Nebraska fall into this category. LB608 applies only to students zoned to these schools. These students would be able to take the option enrollment funding they could otherwise take to another district to an approved or accredited private school.
For instance, if a student zoned to Franklin Elementary school in North Omaha opted in to Hillside Elementary in Westside, the state would provide Westside with $9,200 to supplement the cost of educating a student zoned to OPS.
Under this bill, the student could take a portion of that $9,200 to a school such as Sacred Heart. The effect on OPS would be no different under either scenario.
This legislation simply expands Nebraska’s option enrollment to the areas where it is most needed.
LB608 also has the potential of saving tax dollars. Currently, the TEEOSA formula provides $9,200 to a school for a child who opts into their school. My legislation would limit the amount for each child to the actual costs of educating the child. In many cases, considerably less that $9,200. Any funding saved would be placed in the property tax relief fund.
The purpose of this bill is to expand high quality school options to the families who are least likely to have them today and for the children most in need of them now. This legislation would empower families without increasing costs to taxpayers. It would create a healthy level of competition that promotes accountability and drives overall school improvement. Most importantly, and above all, this legislation is meant to expand opportunities for children in Nebraska by recognizing and embracing every single child’s potential to achieve and thrive through a high-quality education.
I am happy to answer any questions.
List of the 87 “Needs Improvement” Schools
Study done for Accelerate NE by FSG Consulting out of Seattle
Public Education Finances: 2014 by the US Census Bureau
I have provided members of the Committee with a summary of the research on the effect of private school choice on public school outcomes.
https://www.edchoice.org/school_choice_faqs/how-does- school-choice- affect-public-schools/
In Sum: Thirty empirical studies (including all methods) have examined private school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Within that body of research, 29 studies find that choice improved the performance of nearby public schools. One study finds no significant effects. To date, no empirical study has found that school choice harms students in public schools.
I have also provided members of the Committee with a summary of the research on the effect of private school choice on the students whose families have elected to use that choice:
https://www.edchoice.org/school_choice_faqs/does-school- choice-have- a-positive- academic-impact-on- participating-students/
In Sum: Fifteen studies have examined the use of school vouchers by employing a method called a randomized control trial (or RCT), considered the gold standard in the social sciences. Twelve of those studies have found statistically significant gains in academic achievement for some or all voucher students. Only two studies have detected negative effects, both of which observe the initial impacts of Louisiana’s statewide voucher program. One study’s findings were inconclusive because findings were not statistically significant.
In November I was humbled to become your state senator-elect. As your senator, I am committed to representing the best interests of Legislative District 39.
As a fifth generation Nebraskan, I learned the value of hard work at an early age on my family’s farm, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and go to work for the people of this district. I know how to make tough decisions and find solutions to real challenges because I’ve done it under high pressure situations.
I’m determined to reduce property taxes and income taxes, support quality education and promote job creation. These are the issues I heard about again and again as I met with thousands of Nebraskans during the campaign. I promise to continue listening, do my homework, and work hard to make sure Nebraska remains a wonderful place to live and raise a family.
Regardless of whether we end up aligning on every issue, my door will always be open and I encourage you to contact me at any time. My office is also here for you should you, your family, or your business ever need assistance contacting state government agencies or accessing state services. If we cannot help, we will do our best to put you in touch with those who can.
I can be reached by mail at PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, by telephone at (402) 471-2885, or by e-mail at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you and working together in the future.
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