Friday, January 31, 2003


School districts are gigantic employers in Nebraska, with the larger ones eclipsing even the largest of the private employers in the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development with its annual rankings of public and private employers.

The Omaha Public Schools maintains 8,073 jobs, making it much larger than the largest private employer in the state, Walmart of Lincoln, with 7,400 jobs.

Lincoln Public Schools' 4,970 staffers would make the capital city's school workforce rank eighth if it were a free-enterprise concern.

And only 18 private firms in Nebraska employ more people than the Millard Public Schools with 2,488.

Questions are being raised by tax watchdogs such as Joseph Elster of Millard about how come there have to be so darn many staff members per pupil in our public schools. He sent a letter to the Millard School Board this week, asking why taxpayers have to foot the bill for nonstatutory school activities -- things that schools don't HAVE to offer kids, but LIKE to.

Only the state, the feds and Offutt Air Force Base employ more public employees than the Omaha Public Schools. The combined total workforce of just the three largest districts in the state is 15,531, which would make just those three districts, combined, second only to state government in total employees.

Are our schools overstaffed?

Are we on a course that will engulf taxpayers with so many public jobs there aren't enough private salaries around to pay for them?

Does it have to be this way?

Can we drive education costs back to a reasonable level?

Couldn't our schools RIF employees who are NOT working in statutory, "must-do" jobs, and then seek donations from philanthropists, private companies and parents to cover the extras and pay those people on a contract basis?

If not, why not?

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