The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 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.
An improving economy is helping to raise Nebraska’s spending on K-12 education for fiscal years 2006 and 2007.
After two years of budget cuts, lawmakers in late May approved $683.5 million in state school aid for fiscal 2006, a 10.5 percent increase from fiscal 2005. Legislators voted to increase that aid again for 2007, to $734 million, or 7.4 percent over 2006.
Special education will receive a 7.5 percent boost in the biennium, to $174.3 million, compared with $161.1 million in the previous two-year budget. And legislators approved a bill that changes the status of funding for early-childhood education from a grant program to part of the state aid school formula. That change provided a 75 percent hike from fiscal 2005 to 2006, for a total of $3.7 million.
While increases to school funding were welcomed, a bill consolidating elementary-only school districts with K-12 districts met with opposition from some rural educators and communities. Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, vetoed the bill, citing doubts that the measure would save money or improve education.
The unicameral legislature disagreed, and overrode the governor’s veto with a 32-vote majority—two more votes than needed.
Elementary school districts, called Class I districts, represent 47 percent of districts in the Cornhusker State, but educate fewer than 3 percent of the state’s K-12 students.
A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2005 edition of Education Week