Down To The Core: Consolidated Districts


With public school superintendents pinching pennies more schools are finding it's easier to combine rather than shut down.

The number of public school districts in the state is at a record low, with fewer kids attending rural schools. Local education leaders say times are tough.

"We have fewer school districts now than we've ever had," said Nebraska Education Commissioner Dr. Roger Breed.

"Based on our formula calculation some schools don't need any equalization money," said Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature Sen. Greg Adams.

"At Wilcox-Hildreth we don't receive state aid," said Steve Dennis, superintendent of Wilcox-Hildreth Public Schools.

Back in 1939 Nebraska had 7,200 public school districts, in 2002 that number was 534. Now that number has decreased to 249 public school districts.

"What's interesting with the state is that they kind of control you two ways. You can set your levy at $1.05 without any vote of the people. You can spend up to that, if you want to spend more you have to do a levy override," said Dennis.

Officials say for some school districts consolidating is the only way to go to maintain a quality curriculum.

"For a full rich curriculum becomes that much more difficult for small school districts to offer," said Breed.

Dennis says there is a silver lining to not getting that roller coaster equalization aid.

"In a way it's kind of nice that we don't because I don't have to worry about all of a sudden losing a million and a half dollars of state aid and figure out how I'm going to do this," said Dennis.