Tuesday, September 26, 2006
SOS SIGNALS GOOD SENSE
Did you catch that good reporting by the local daily? Nebraska’s state and local tax load ranks us 15th in the nation among states, and getting worse. When you factor in our relatively low personal income levels, we ratchet up to the eighth-biggest tax bite in the land.
What’s driving most of that? Unrestrained school spending. What might hold the line on it? Nothing that we have going now. The two biggest ed bills of recent times, LB 126 (forced consolidation of Nebraska’s remaining small schools) and LB 1024 (the legally-suspect but still very much viable consolidation of Omaha metro area school districts under one funding umbrella as a “Learning Community”), are both proving to be enormously expensive. Not only that, but neither offers a whiff of a chance of a good return on investment for the state’s learning curve.
That’s why leaders such as gubernatorial ex-candidate David Nabity of Omaha say it’s economic suicide to continue on without some method of collaring the school spending spiral. They’re pitching Initiative 423 on the Nov. 7 ballot. It would amend the state constitution to allow only modest increases in state spending. That would hold the line on state aid to education. They point out that the initiative wouldn’t prohibit spending increases, but just make sure that they aren’t so big.
Opponents point out that even if Initiative 423 holds down state taxes, it would probably spur an increase in the other form of tax revenues that schools use, property taxes. That’s because educrats have never before demonstrated an ability to significantly cut their spending patterns, and when faced with a block to one form of taxation, they are likely to merely redouble efforts to draw down on another.
Opponents would rather push through new kinds of tax cuts than force educrats to cut spending with the constitutional lid. But the pro-423 forces point out that that’s not on the table. And if something isn’t done, and fast, to hold the line on school spending and find more cost-effective ways to deliver a quality education, they say, there may be an even more onerous hemorrhaging of people and income out of this state. That would cause extreme pain to an increasingly shrinking base of taxpayers attempting to keep any semblance of school quality going for our increasingly low-income, high-need public school population.
To learn more about the initiative, see http://www.sosnebraska.com/learn_more1.html
Note that Nabity and initiative leader Mike Groene have been honored by Americans for Tax Reform, an impressive credential: www.atr.org/content/pdf/2006/august/082306pr_ne_hero.pdf
THE COST OF SCHOOL ABSENTEEISM
We’re like prizefighters, taking a much-needed breather in our corners after District Judge Mike Coffey ix-nayed the socialistic LB 1024, the metro-wide Learning Collective . . . uh, that is, Learning Community . . . with his injunction last week. At least, we can rest for the moment, as lawyers wrangle over pesky details like its surefire unconstitutionality because of its goofy, socialistic voting structure, and what on earth to do next. Meanwhile:
According to the Nebraska Department of Education, the Omaha Public Schools’ atrocious attendance record cost us more than $800 per pupil in the 2005-06 school year. That comes to $32 million we forked over to OPS that wound up in thin air. The state’s largest school district may have the worst attendance record in the whole state. But what is anybody doing about it? Very little. And that’s wee todd it.
The state’s School Finance and Organization Services issued a report that showed the cost per pupil based on Average Daily Attendance and Average Daily Membership; the latter figure showed pure enrollment regardless of whether the student was at school. Districts equip themselves based on enrollment, not actual attendance.
State aid to education is distributed based on the enrollment number, not based on how many kids are actually there.
Average daily membership spending totaled $7,617.34 per pupil in OPS. But average daily attendance spending was $8,420.69. That’s a difference of $803.35 for each of the more than 40,000 pupils in OPS. Because so many kids don’t show up, it’s costing all of us, bigtime. And it more than likely is costing those kids a crack at a good education, since you can’t learn if you aren’t there.
Wouldn’t it make a heck of a lot of sense to force OPS to clean up its attendance act? Wouldn’t that be smarter than ruining our existing schools, splitting this state apart and establishing an international reputation for Nebraska as a backwards, racist place, with all the fandango over LB 1024 and the Learning Commissariat . . . uh, that is . . . Learning Community?
That’s one ed bill I wish would go truant . . . and stay that way.
NEBRASKA SMALL SCHOOLS MAKE NATIONAL NEWS
This is a neat series with a sad, but neat story about a tiny Nebraska school that was forced to close down even though it appeared to be doing a great job:
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