Down To The Core: State Aid Formula


It's what many superintendents undoubtedly disagree on, funding our public schools. Some school leaders say the formula just doesn't work.

This is a monstrous budget year for the legislature and taking a front seat this session is education finance.

"When I hear the human cry from schools that the formula isn't working it generally means that what they're trying to say is we want more money," said Sen. Greg Adams, speaker of the legislature.

Public education in the state takes up almost half of the general funds allotment making this top priority for state senators.

"The budget really can't move significantly until we know what we're going to do with state aid," said Sen. Kate Sullivan from Cedar Rapids, Neb.

"You can certainly re-evaluate every element in the formula when superintendents call in when something is or isn't working," said Adams.

The current formula for state aid, more specifically equalization aid is basically needs versus resources. Currently only 7 school districts in the state serve over 50 percent of the students in Nebraska. Therefore they get the larger portion of the funds. 130 school districts receive no equalization aid.

"It's easy to say there's something wrong with the formula rather then saying legislature you need to put more in for state aid to schools," said Adams.

The Nebraska education commissioner Dr. Roger Breed says it's hard to come up with a cookie-cutter system when the school districts are so different. "The missions are really no different than Omaha public school than Sioux or Elba...the scale of the problems are perhaps bigger in the metropolitan areas."

The key players in this discussion over the next few months with be Gov. Heineman; Sen. Sullivan, who is the education chair; and Speaker Greg Adams, who is the former education chair.