Changes to School Funding
Lawmakers will begin to prioritize the state's needs and they're getting ready to discuss where your tax dollars are headed. Aside from opening up discussions on the governor's tax reform proposals, lawmakers said they'll also discuss changes to the state aid to education formula.
Many lawmakers want to make an increase in funding for K-12 education, and it's something the governor named as a priority in his State of the State address.
Governor Dave Heineman said, "My proposed budget continues to make K-12 education from $852 million to $895 million in fiscal year 2014 and to $939 million in fiscal year 2015. Additionally, I am proposing a 5 percent increase in special education funding in each of the next two years."
Chair of the education committee, Sen. Kate Sullivan said, "When we left the legislature last spring, it would've increased over 20 percent, current estimates show it increasing a little over 10 percent, the governor says 5 percent, we have to realistic." Sen. Sullivan said the education committee will find that realistic increase to keep a balanced budget.
Sen. Annette Dubas said there may also be changes to non-equalized school districts. She said, "State aid to education has had to take its hits along the way with everything else over the last few years as we worked to balance our budget. When we look at what's going on in rural Nebraska with the high land prices -- with evaluations going up -- we're seeing more non–equalized districts; how it that going to play as far as property taxes? So, it's the perfect opportunity for us to have this discussion."
Gov. Heineman also commented on funding for the states colleges and universities. The governor said he's prepared to "implement a two-year tuition freeze for Nebraska students if you adopt my proposed budget."
Around 106 of the 247 school districts in the state do not receive the equalization portion of the state aid to schools.
Sen. Sullivan said all 247 state districts receive some state aid but a growing number don't receive the equalization because the state needs to balance things out and create equal opportunity across the board.