Tuesday, November 14, 2006
SCHOOL LOBBYING AND LEGAL FEES:
WHEN GOVERNMENT SEEKS THINGS FROM GOVERNMENT
Does it bother you that there are hardly ever any plain old citizens testifying before elected school boards and Legislative committees about school matters? Usually, it’s an attorney, a lobbyist, or both, getting paid handsomely by the hour by us to “represent” -- not us, the taxpayer -- but our paid employees in the government schools.
Does it bother you that we have to pay the legal costs of school lawsuits in which our representatives are basically suing us, the taxpayers, at our expense? That’s what’s going on with a number of these “equity” lawsuits and other legal arm-wrestling over turf and revenues right now.
The recent legal and political messes over the attempted takeover of metro-area schools by the Omaha Public Schools district, and Cat-in-the-Hat style messy legal and political consequences that have ensued, are sure to result in eye-popping legal bills.
The numbers from the 2005-06 school year aren’t yet on file with the state, and this doesn’t even count the legal bills and other expenses of related governmental entities, such as the Legislature.
But to set the scene, here’s what selected big districts in Nebraska spent in the 2004-05 school year on legal services alone*:
Omaha Public Schools $2,489,026
Lincoln Public Schools $478,834
Millard Public Schools $248,567
Westside Community Schools $103,712
Elkhorn Public Schools $45,637
* Source: http://ess.nde.state.ne.us district annual financial reports
2004-05, category #01-2-02310-317
The OPS legal bill was more than five times as big as that of the No. 2 district in the state, the Lincoln schools.
Note, too, that OPS spent $56.52 per pupil that year, vs. $12.52 for Elkhorn.
Gee! Does that mean students in OPS have five times as many rights that need to be upheld as students in any other district?
Or . . . is OPS management THAT bad, that it gets hauled into court so much more, or is the OPS management THAT much more litigious, that it hauls OTHERS into court that much more?
Or . . . is OPS just using to using the courts to get what the elected policymakers won’t give them?
It’s worth a thought.
Along these lines, a colleague did some checking with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission on school spending for lobbying services, and passed along the findings. These numbers aren’t very big, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the coming year:
SCHOOL LOBBYISTS & COSTS *
2005 $ SPENT
2006 $ SPENT
* Source: Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission website, http://nadc.nol.org
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