Monday, March 24, 2008

Nebraska K-12 Finance: Spoonful of School Aid Helps the Medicine Go Down

Even State Senator Ron Raikes, the champion of the school aid formula for subsidizing local K-12 budgets with state tax dollars, has called for the formula to be abandoned – again. This happens every few years when the absurd school aid formula spits out an increase that even apostles of the dysfunctional school aid formula can’t swallow.

At the start of this legislative session, school aid was supposed to go up 17%, $132 million, next year. That was going to break the state budget, so the increase was scaled back to $53 million, a 7% increase. Hey, that’s still twice the inflation rate.

The latest state revenue forecast was negative so even the scaled-back increase in school aid looked like it was in jeopardy.

So the legislature reacted by . . . deciding to put $82 million more into school aid, a nearly 11% increase!

How does this happen? How does the number go from $132 million to $53 million to $82 million?

When the initial increase was reduced, some districts saw that they were not going to get the increased funding promised them by the school aid formula. Senators representing those districts complained and threatened to fight the proposal. So the powers that be started throwing more money back into play until they placated enough senators to get the proposal through.

The latest news coverage says 10 out of the 11 districts in Douglas and Sarpy Counties will fare well. I haven't seen the exact numbers, but I imagine enough rural districts were taken care of to garner the necessary support.

I’m not anti-education. I’m anti-idiocy in managing K-12 finance. Urge the governor to act on his statement earlier this year that the school aid system needs to be completely overhauled. It’s the single most important step in getting state spending under control.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

Another glaring beacon that state government needs a complete overhaul from the ground up. We continue to pay higher and higher taxes to support a public education system that consistently is producing an inferior result. Instead of revamping the state funding formula, why not instead solve the real problem? Let the state be the sole taxing authority for education...local school boards can continue to exist for spending decisions, etc. Allocate "x" dollars per child of legal residents of the state to be spent on public, private, parochial, home schooling and give parents back both the control and responsibility for educating their kids. Let competition address failing schools that fail to produce a satisfactory result...period. Since we're dreaming, let's also eliminate all sales/income/property/estate taxes and move to taxation based solely upon consumption...the more you consume, the more you pay. Again giving individuals/taxpayers the ultimate control and responsibility for taxation. Then, and only then, will state government return to its rightful duties and size...otherwise we will continue our increasing rapid drift into european style socialism. BTW, can you imagine the appeal of a candidate for governor who would dedicate his/her campaign to the above issues??? We're talking landslide.