1997: Review


The Complete History of the Nebraska Tax Equity
and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA)
Policy History Navigation



LB 806 (1997) was undoubtedly an historic measure.  It would become the subject of analysis by both critics and proponents for years to come.  Not unlike many major initiatives, the legislative life of LB 806 had a number of twists and turns along the way.  LB 806 was introduced by a majority of the Education Committee and was advanced out of committee by a unanimous vote, which included Senators Bromm, Stuhr, and Wickersham.  These three senators would later become the backbone of the opposition to the legislation, although Senator Wickersham would ultimately vote in favor of passage of the legislation.

The original version of LB 806 did not contain a provision to force consolidation of Class I school districts.  It was not until the bill emerged from committee that the issue of consolidation once again raised.  Then, on General File, one of the major concessions by the proponents was to give up the consolidation mandate and thereby make the opponents feel as though a victory had been scored.  In truth, the proponents were giving up something they never originally intended to achieve, at least by the standard of the original bill.

Both the proponents and opponents of the legislation accused one another of politicizing school finance issues in order to meet their own agenda.  In truth, both sides seemed to have the best of interests of children in mind, but simply had different viewpoints on the state's role in public education.

In the end, one of the great advantages of the proponents was their collective knowledge of the existing school finance formula along with the proposed changes to the formula.  They were consistently able to articulate the strengths of their own proposals while exposing the weaknesses of the opponents' proposals.  The proponents had the advantage of an historical policy perspective from Senator Ron Withem, who just happened to also serve as Speaker at the time.  Several times during the debate, Speaker Withem recalled the original intent of LB 1059 (1990) in order to add credibility to the changes proposed under LB 806.

However, the overriding advantage for proponents of LB 806 was likely the action of the Legislature to enact levy caps a year earlier along with the perceived need to change the formula in order to facilitate the new limitations on local resources.  Senator Bohlke used this argument time after time during debate on LB 806 to draw her colleagues' attention back to the need to move the legislation forward.  Governor Nelson also used this argument as a basis for signing the legislation into law.  Without the levy limitations looming over the Legislature, the changes to the formula proposed under LB 806 may have been exposed as a clear attempt to shift state aid funding away from smaller, rural schools.  Proponents may have had a more difficult time justifying their proposal even if they had argued that LB 806 was intended to move the state closer to a true equalization formula.


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