Education Funding

Omaha-Area Districts to Share Revenue, Programs

By Christina A. Samuels — June 05, 2007 3 min read

A new school governance arrangement will link the Omaha, Neb., district with 10 surrounding school districts—financially as well as educationally.

A state bill, signed into law May 25 by Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, ends two years of wrangling that began with the Omaha district’s creation of a plan in 2005 to annex land and schools from three surrounding districts located within city limits.

Local superintendents protested the Omaha district’s “one city, one school district” plan. Then, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature last spring approved a plan that would have broken Omaha into three separate districts, largely among racial and ethnic lines. (“Nebraska Court Halts Omaha Breakup Plan,” Sept. 27, 2006.)

Observers say the success of the new bill, which supersedes the previous legislation and leaves the 46,000-student Omaha district intact and boundaries of other districts unchanged, depends on how the affected districts iron out the details.

Many other states have revenue-sharing agreements that distribute money from rich districts to less-affluent ones. But the Nebraska law ties Omaha and surrounding jurisdictions together in a way that seems unique—if the districts don’t protest, said Michael Griffith, a policy analyst with the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.

Since the legislation creates another elected body that would oversee some educational efforts, he said, there could be conflicts with that board and the individual school districts, which still retain power. “When the boards have a disagreement, who wins?” he said. “And do they always win?”

Common Tax

The new law retains the previous measure’s concept of creating a “learning community” of the 11 districts, located in Douglas and Salpy counties, which educate about 100,000 children.

The goal is for each school to have 35 percent students who are of low socioeconomic status. Students would be able to transfer freely between schools that have space for them, regardless of the district where they live. A paid, 18-member board will oversee specific issues that do not relate to the operations of the individual districts for the learning community.

The state will levy a common tax on the two counties that will be distributed to districts based on enrollment and other needs. Districts will be able to levy their own tax, and another, smaller tax levy will pay for an areawide school construction program.

The plan calls for the creation of “focus schools,” with programs intended to attract students from more than one district. The construction of those boundaryless schools will be part of the duties of the new learning-community board.

Although the provisions of the bill will not take effect until the 2009-10 school year, the superintendents are in conversations to create a “focus school” that would stand as a symbol of what they can achieve working together, said Kenneth Bird, the superintendent of the 6,000-student Westside district.

That school, which could be a Chinese-immersion elementary program, could be located in an existing building in the Westside district, he said.

“We want to build off the energy that we have here,” Mr. Bird said. At the same time, he said, the school might show that Omaha-area districts don’t need the learning-community board.

Sen. Ron Raikes, the chairman of the Nebraska legislature’s education committee, views the money-sharing provision as one of the most challenging aspects of the new law. “People are willing to go along with things, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything,” he said. “That was a tough part. But it’s in there.”

John J. Mackiel, the Omaha superintendent, said the plan was a positive move. He had opposed the plan to break up his district.

“For the first time, we’re going to speak collectively with one voice,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2007 edition of Education Week as Omaha-Area Districts to Share Revenue, Programs


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
Equity & Diversity Live Online Discussion What Is Critical Race Theory and Why You Shouldn't Shy Away From It
In this episode of A Seat at the Table, Peter DeWitt sits down with lawyer-educator Janel George and EdWeek reporters, Stephen Sawchuk and Andrew Ujifusa, as they discuss what’s at the heart of the critical

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Federal Rules in the Pipeline on COVID-19 Relief, Testing, Student Privacy
The Biden administration plans to issues rules governing coronavirus relief for homeless students and for private schools.
4 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House earlier this month.
Evan Vucci/AP
Education Funding To Get Billions in COVID-19 Aid, States Pledge Focus on Mental Health, Learning Recovery
Twenty-eight states had submitted plans to the Education Department as of mid-June to access $41 billion from the American Rescue Plan.
4 min read
Illustration of money floating in a life preserver.
Education Funding Some in Congress Fear State Budget Decisions May Undercut COVID-19 Education Relief
A dispute in Wisconsin over coronavirus relief underscores how technical issues and politics are affecting education spending decisions.
4 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Education Funding There Are Big Funding Gaps Affecting High-Poverty Schools. Can Biden Close Them?
Hurdles lie ahead for a $20 billion bid to create "Title I equity grants" to address long-standing funding inequities.
9 min read
President Joe Biden talks about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021.
President Joe Biden made boosting Title I for disadvantaged students a key part of his education platform on the campaign trail.
Susan Walsh/AP