Last week, Senator Linehan’s LB 753, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, advanced to the next round of debate. This is historic as it marks the first time in many years that a “school choice” bill has moved forward in the Nebraska Legislature. However, it is important to note that LB 753 is part of a larger school finance and property tax reduction plan proposed by Governor Jim Pillen. I am proud to support this legislation (along with the other legislation included in the package) as it is a win-win for Nebraska taxpayers and our state’s children. LB 753 helps to expand educational options for families who might not otherwise have the means to afford private school tuition, while at the same time reducing the burden on our public school system. By providing scholarships to students in need, we can help to level the playing field and ensure that every child in Nebraska has access to options for education. Parents are the best judges of their children’s educational needs and deserve to be able to choose the educational environment that best suits their children’s needs, regardless of their income.
This week, I would like to cover the school funding package. The bills in this package are: Senator Sanders’ LB 583 would allocate $1,500 perstudent foundational aid within the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) formula, which is the current school finance formula for Nebraska public schools. Additionally, it would expand funding for special education by “filling the gap” between existing federal and state support and 80% of a district’s anticipated cost for special education.
Senator Briese’s LB 589 would provide a “soft cap” for the annual increase in a district’s property tax revenue at 3%. This is a “soft cap,” as the spending limit could be exceeded with a 75% majority vote of the school board or a 60% vote of the people. This proposal would bring property tax relief through a sensible local constraint on property tax assessment.
Senator Clements’ 681 would establish a $1 billion Education Future Fund; the fund would receive a transfer of $250 million per year. This fund is intended to be spent on foundation aid, increased educational funding, and increased school funding and grant programs, such as teacher retention. It’s a “rainy day fund” to protect education from state budget shortfalls.
Senator Linehan’s LB 753 would create the “Opportunity Scholarships Act” which would allow individual and corporate taxpayers to qualify for a tax credit equal to the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship-granting organization. The scholarship-granting organization would provide education scholarships for students to attend a qualified, nonprofit, private elementary or secondary school. 48 other states have some form of school choice, and Nebraska would be #49 if passed.
I look forward to discussing these issues in the coming weeks on the legislative floor. As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-4712733; email: email@example.com.
As reported by Nebraska City News Press