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Published in Print: September 16, 1998, as Court Rules Nebraska Must Compensate Boys Town

Court Rules Nebraska Must Compensate Boys Town

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The Nebraska Supreme Court has handed Boys Town a financial victory, ruling that the state must compensate the venerable private institution for educating wards of the state.

In a unanimous opinion issued this month, the court upheld Boys Town's 1991 claim that Nebraska law obligates the state to reimburse the school for educating special education and other students transferred to Boys Town, a world-renowned institution near Omaha.

Nebraska officials had argued that state law requires only that the state pay for wards who have special education needs.

Currently, 100 of the 556 students living at Father Flanagan's Boys Town are children who have been removed from their homes and placed in state custody. The decision orders the state to pay an estimated $2 million a year to Boys Town, as well as $11.5 million in back payments for education costs, state officials said.

The Rev. Val Peter, Boys Town's executive director, called the ruling a victory for children.

"The state can no longer refuse to pay for its own children, whether in general or special education," he said. "They just can't act like a deadbeat dad and force charities to subsidize the state's irresponsibility."

But Michael Rumbaugh, the legal counsel for the state department of health and human services, said no state money is earmarked to pay the debt. "This kind of a hit has not been budgeted for," he said.

"The legislature is going to have to appropriate more money to pay for this [expense] or change the law so that the state is no longer financially responsible," he said.


Vol. 18, Issue 2, Page 5

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