Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The gifts of Legislative Bill 126 just keep on giving: a report on KNOP-TV in North Platte showed how grade-school pupils in tiny Oconto, a town right in the belly button of Nebraska, are going to have to ride a bus to and from school for an hour and a half each Friday.

The reason: they are being forced to attend school one day a week in Callaway, Neb., another tiny town miles to the northwest, because of LB 126, the school consolidation law that’s forcing many Class I country grade schools to close or make other drastic changes.

The station quoted Dave Jeffrey, a father who used to be a member of the school board for the Class I school in Oconto, who opposed the change. Once the law was put in place, the school board was demolished, and became a toothless “advisory council,” of which he is a member. However, not much advising is going on: the Oconto representatives weren’t even asked before the busing plan was imposed, Jeffrey said.

The Callaway school board made the change formal at its meeting Monday, Jeffrey said.

He and Mike Nolles of Bassett, Neb., head of the advocacy group Class 1’s United (
www.classonesunited.com), are among those working to get rid of LB 126 in the November election after a successful petition drive got a rethink on the ballot. Nolles said 40 small schools have closed because of the law, even though the state’s voters may very well throw it out in a few months, and then there’d be a muddy mess resuscitating them.

See the report on:

Meanwhile, Back at the (Near North Platte) Ranch:
Hershey Tries to . . . BAR a Class I Family’s Options

Another example of the havoc being wreaked by LB 126 comes from an unrelated and slightly happier case also near North Platte, on the western hinterlands thereof: the North Platte school board voted 5-0 not to accept a family’s land for tax purposes because it would have forced their kindergartner to go to a school 20 miles away instead of 10.

The Barger family told the board they preferred a former Class I country grade school, Rosedale School, and were willing to transport her there. Its enrollment has dropped from 13 students to five in the wake of the school consolidation bill.

Now that the nearest K-12 district, in Hershey, Neb., has authority over the Barger land, it apparently wanted to force the Bargers to take their child to school there, even though it’s 20 miles away. In a letter to the editor of the online North Platte Bulletin, the Bargers contended that the Hershey district attempted to “redistrict” their land by shifting it to the North Platte school district, without their knowledge, in an attempt to deny enrollment and revenues to Rosedale and force its closure.

Since the North Platte school board voted to pass up the Barger land, they can now apparently put the child where they want to for school, at least for the coming school year.


Feds Have Mercy? Or ‘Ve Haff Vays’?
State Ed Department May Get a Break

Talk about government pushing people around when it comes to education, as in the Class I school examples: government also pushes government around.

The U.S. Department of Education plans to meet with what it has defined as slacker states, including Nebraska, and may let them beg their way out of sanctions imposed recently because of unsatisfactory testing programs in schools that use federal funding, especially affecting non-English speaking students.

Federal educrats contend that Nebraska’s homegrown assessment system fails to conform adequately to the requirements of the federal education law, No Child Left Behind. They have threatened to deny the state education department $126,741 in Title I administrative funding, and to pass that money directly to school districts instead, as a rebuke.

But according to
http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=130627, the feds may waive that punishment if state educrats agree to hang their heads, bite their lips, be contrite, and be hot-boxed into listening to how other states test for reading and math in a meaningful way, especially for English language learners.

Cristo Rey School Looms in Inner-City Omaha:
Healthy Competition at Last!

Competition for students is ratcheting up in inner-city Omaha, as the Catholic niche school, St. Peter Claver Cristo Rey High School, gears up to open one year from now in the former St. Mary School building, 36th and Q Streets.

Open houses are being held this week, and teens who want to go there are busy recruiting other teens. Organizers have hopes of signing up 125 students per class, which would put a noticeable dent in the Omaha Public Schools’ inner-city enrollment. That could be a very good thing in terms of fostering positive change to adapt to the new competition.

The Cristo Rey schools around the country are based on a self-reliance concept: the students are poor, but attend school for four longer-than-usual days in a challenging, college-prep environment. Then they work in internship jobs on the fifth day to help offset their tuition expenses and gain valuable job experience. Nineteen Omaha companies have already offered jobs to students for the program.

Bellevue Raises Budget By 8%,
While Enrollment Rises 2%: Hmm! New Math!

The board of the Bellevue Public Schools held a hearing Monday on its proposed $83.3 million budget, which would represent an 8% increase over last year. The reason given for the increase is added staffing because of enrollment growth.

According to district administrators, there will be 173 more students this year for a total of 9,429. If you do the math, that comes to an enrollment increase of less than 2%.

The board is set to vote on the budget in September.

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