Thursday, April 24, 2003


Here's a letter sent this week to State Sen. Chip Maxwell of Omaha from Superintendent Curtis Cogswell of McCool Junction, a K-12 school district with 150 pupils about 50 miles from Lincoln. Cogswell said in an interview that Maxwell's proposal would takeaway the voice of the people at the local level and ruin schools. He said that all 18 graduates this year are going on to post-secondary institutions, without a single dropout, and that the key reason for that success is what little local control the schools have left. He wrote:

Senator Maxwell:

I just read your educational budget proposal for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. Your proposal did not go far enough. You need to get the State of Nebraska and especially the Legislature out of school funding all together. If our school system operated as inefficiently as the Unicameral we would have been shut down long ago. Give all control back to each local district in regards to funding through property taxes. Continue to set a tax levy limit that must be overridden by the voters if they want to exceed it. If they do not want to exceed the levy then they would decide the future of their district, not the State. Who might be the big loser if we go back to funding schools purely through local property taxes? Could it be Omaha!


a. Further local control of our school districts and give control to senators who know nothing about educating children, some of whom haven't even set foot in a PUBLIC SCHOOL.

b. Small schools where superintendents and principals substitute when teachers are out of the building and help with the maintenance to save money. These people would be forced to go to bigger systems where this is unheard of. Thus cutting out the bureaucracy?

c. Schools which don't need to worry about alternative education because we can serve all of our students. Case in point -- we currently have taken in a student who was going to be expelled from the districts in which he attended. This student is doing quite well in our small school where we can give him the individual attention he needs

d. The school personnel knowing each parent and grandparent of the children in their school, creating a school where the family is valued as one of its greatest assets.

e. The list is endless.

There is a lot more at stake when you start closing schools and more importantly when the Legislature takes the approach that they know what is better for local communities than the people who live in them. The runaway spending by schools which you so commonly refer to (we operate our K-12 district on $110,000 per month) can be attributed to a number of things, from health Insurance going up at a rate of 10-19% a year to the services we use, like advice from lawyers who increase their fees each year. Senator Maxwell, why are you not calling for a freeze on these types of expenses? Or are some runaway expenses all right while others are not?

Senator Maxwell, I invite you to visit the McCool Junction schools where I have the privilege of serving as superintendent. It is only 50 minutes from Lincoln and would be well worth your visit to see what small schools have to offer. By the way, according to most legislative proposals, our district looks to get zero dollars in state aid.

I served as an administrator in a district with 30,000 students and chose to come to a district with 150 students. Please don't take that choice away from parents, especially when the state isn't funding any part of our budget.

Please come see this small school so you have another perspective of the future that YOU choose to represent. The children of Nebraska deserve your best in every decision you make. I would be more than happy to come to Lincoln to pick you up and bring you out to our school to visit. I am very serious about my proposal to have you come see this school. Sometimes it is easy to make a decision 50 miles away when you don't see the faces of the people impacted by those decisions. I can be reached at work: (402) 724-2231 or home: (402) 724-3150.

Curtis Cogwell, Superintendent
McCool Junction Public Schools

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