Education Funding

Omaha-Area Districts to Share Revenue, Programs

By Christina A. Samuels — June 05, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
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.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
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.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

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 What New School Spending Data Show About a Coming Fiscal Cliff
New data show just what COVID-relief funds did to overall school spending—and the size of the hole they might leave in school budgets.
4 min read
Photo illustration of school building and piggy bank.
F. Sheehan for Education Week + iStock / Getty Images Plus
Education Funding When There's More Money for Schools, Is There an 'Objective' Way to Hand It Out?
A fight over the school funding formula in Mississippi is kicking up old debates over how to best target aid.
7 min read
Illustration of many roads and road signs going in different directions with falling money all around.
Education Funding Explainer How Can Districts Get More Time to Spend ESSER Dollars? An Explainer
Districts can get up to 14 additional months to spend ESSER dollars on contracts—if their state and the federal government both approve.
4 min read
Illustration of woman turning back hands on clock.
Education Week + iStock / Getty Images Plus Week
Education Funding Education Dept. Sees Small Cut in Funding Package That Averted Government Shutdown
The Education Department will see a reduction even as the funding package provides for small increases to key K-12 programs.
3 min read
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about healthcare at an event in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26, 2024.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about health care at an event in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26. Biden signed a funding package into law over the weekend that keeps the federal government open through September but includes a slight decrease in the Education Department's budget.
Matt Kelley/AP