Omaha Breakup Plan Marks Session’s End
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Amid controversy over a new law that would slice the Omaha Public Schools into three racially identifiable districts, Nebraska lawmakers this spring passed a modest 2.6 percent increase in state school aid for fiscal 2007, while also approving $100 million in tax cuts.
A healthy economy allowed the legislature to adjust the K-12 budget upward by $16 million, to $700.6 million, for fiscal 2006, a 10.4 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
Since the end of legislative session in May 2005, the Cornhusker State has collected another $431 million in revenue.
With revenue growth expected to slow in the next few years, though, the lawmakers approved an incremental increase of 2.6 percent in state school funding for fiscal 2007, to $718.5 million.
Nebraska’s biennial budget for the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years is $6.2 billion, or 7.4 percent above the previous biennium.
The unicameral legislature saved its most controversial measure for the final days of the session, when its only African-American member pushed the bill to divide the Omaha schools into three districts, each with a distinct concentration of blacks, Latinos, or whites. Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, signed the measure into law on April 14, the last day of the legislative session.
The Omaha branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the state in federal court in May, arguing that the law violated the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ("NAACP Suit Challenges Breakup of Omaha Schools," May 24, 2006.)
In other action, the legislature established an early-education endowment fund calling for private donors to give at least $1 million by the end of 2006 and $20 million within five years. School districts seeking grants through the fund must use it for programs that serve disadvantaged children from birth to age 3. A six-member board will administer the grant program.
Vol. 25, Issue 39, Page 26