Thursday, October 31, 2002


Recommendation: Vote "AGAINST" overriding the tax-levy lid in the Omaha Public Schools

1. OPS has total budget authority this year, including construction and other off-budget spending, of $705.9 million, or $15,419 apiece for the 45,782 students enrolled

2. Operations alone will cost $6,793 per pupil this year, a 44 percent increase over 10 years ago despite K-12 enrollment that has been essentially flat

3. OPS is already $322.3 million in debt

4. OPS projects that a lid override would bring it another $115 million over 5 years above what the Legislature set as the levy lid, yet state government faces a multimillion dollar budget deficit

5. Override is likely to cost the owner of a $100,000 home at least an extra $750 in property taxes over 5 years

6. OPS has 6,002 employees, which figures to one employee for every 7.6 students, but only half are regular classroom teachers; the rest work in special education, building and grounds, student support services, administration and so on, so nonteaching staff cuts are eminently possible

7. Health and dental insurance is free for full-time employees and after four years, they pay only 60% of family coverage, a valuable fringe benefit not often discussed; perhaps they could start paying a percentage

8. OPS has $88.7 million in its various cash funds that could be tapped; the cash cushion is too large

9. Taxpayers have funded the OPS Employee Retirement System that now has $774.6 million, and educators can now take early retirement with full pension at age 55 with 30 years of experience; it’s not like we’re stingy

10. OPS students do have more learning problems associated with poverty, including being more transient than suburban children, which sets back achievement. But recently-reported test scores are causing grave concern that the district may be failing our neediest students and reacting by just wanting to throw more money at the problem spent the wrong ways. There is ample documentation that with simple curricular changes that actually cost less, not more, learning would improve in the inner-city OPS schools. Look at the inner-city Catholic schools that are doing a better job than the public schools at less cost, the Marva Collins-style success stories, and the great results from shedding traditional bilingual education such as OPS has in favor of better, cheaper English immersion programs. There is no evidence that additional money given to schools improves academic achievement for any students, including those from disadvantaged homes.



1. 2002-03 Omaha Public Schools budget, www.ops.org, p. 3

2. Ibid, p. 7; $311 million general fund divided by 45,782 enrollment; note that enrollment includes 500 more pre-kindergarten students than in the past who technically shouldn’t be in a K-12 enrollment tally; 1992-93 figures from OPS’ past annual financial reports on file with the State Education Department: http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm

3. State Auditor’s website, school districts, bonded indebtedness, OPS, 2001-02, http://www.auditors.nol.org

4. OPS projections of $23 million per year in extra taxes from the override, multiplied times five years, Omaha World-Herald, Sept. 29, p. 1

5. Ibid

6. Employment figures obtained by adding categorical subtotals on pp. 51-85 of the 2002-03 OPS budget, www.ops.org and dividing by 45,782 in total enrollment for the staff-to-child ratio

7. Employee Compensation and Benefits subpage, www.ops.org

8. Total obtained by adding the various cash balances for OPS funds listed in its 2000-01 annual financial report on:

9. 2002-03 OPS budget, p. 141

10. “Report Card on Education,” American Legislative Exchange Council, www.alec.org . . . “They Have Overcome: High-Poverty, High-Performing Schools in California,” Pacific Research Institute, www.pacificresearch.org . . . demonstrations of the effectiveness of strong phonics-based curriculum, discipline and parental respect: www.noexcuses.org

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