2006: The Metro Issues


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The Metro Issues

A boundary dispute between the state's largest public school district and its neighboring districts dominated the Education Committee's agenda during the 2006 session.

The dispute resulted from the attempt by the Omaha Public School District (OPS) to annex parts of the Millard, Ralston, and Elkhorn school districts. ;nbsp;Proponents of the annexation, citing their theme of "one city, one district," believed that annexation was necessary to prevent OPS from becoming more racially, socially, and economically isolated; while annexation opponents claimed the issue was educational choice and a bigger school district was not necessarily a better district. ;nbsp;The ongoing dispute migrated from school board and town hall meetings to hearings before the Education Committee, to the floor of the Legislature. ;nbsp;While several bills were introduced in an effort to resolve the dispute, LB 1024 was advanced to the floor of the Legislature. ;nbsp;Debate was heated. ;nbsp;A wealth of amendments were offered, some of which were adopted.

Document Archive
LB 1024: Creation of learning communities and the division of OPS
Bill Summary Statement of Intent
Chronology Hearing Transcripts
Com. Statement Exec. Session Votes
Introduced Bill Slip Law
Fiscal Notes:;nbsp;;nbsp; Jan. 23, 2006
;nbsp; Jan. 30, 2006
;nbsp; Apr. 7, 2006
;nbsp; Apr. 12, 2006
Floor Transcripts:;nbsp;;nbsp; ;nbsp;
General File;nbsp;;nbsp; Apr. 4, 2006
;nbsp; Apr. 6, 2006
;nbsp; Apr. 10, 2006
;nbsp; Apr. 11, 2006
Select File;nbsp;;nbsp; Apr. 11, 2006
Final Reading;nbsp;;nbsp; Apr. 13, 2006

As enacted, LB 1024 authorizes the creation of learning communities. ;nbsp;Specifically, LB 1024 creates a learning community, designed to bring all public school districts in Douglas and Sarpy counties under one administrative umbrella. ;nbsp;While each member district continues to operate independently, with its own budget, curriculum, and school board, the districts, via the learning community, will have common property tax levies.

The learning community is governed by a coordinating council, composed of one school board member from each member school district; each school district's superintendent serves as an ex officio member.

LB 1024 prescribes a procedure for changing school district boundaries within the learning community. ;nbsp;Boundaries can be changed by petition of the coordinating council and approval of the petition by the State Committee for the Reorganization of School Districts and the districts impacted by the change.

For now, LB 1024 provides that school district boundaries within Douglas and Sarpy counties are to remain unchanged until the learning community is up and running. ;nbsp;However, the bill directs the coordinating council to submit recommendations for dividing OPS into separate school districts. ;nbsp;Each district must include two or three of the seven high schools currently operating within OPS, and recommendations must be submitted by July 1, 2007.

The provision calling for the division of OPS was adopted as an amendment on General File and was one of the more controversial provisions of LB 1024. ;nbsp;The provision generated emotional debate on both General and Select File. ;nbsp;Proponents cited the desire for local control and the belief that smaller school districts do a better job educating students as their reasons to adopt the amendment, while opponents believed the provision resulted in the unlawful segregation of OPS.

Recognizing that integration is an issue, LB 1024 establishes an integration task force to examine diversity issues and to recommend policies or procedures to address potential problems.

The bill authorizes the learning community to levy a property tax beginning in the 2008-2009 school year. ;nbsp;(Prior to 2008, the Legislature will appropriate funds necessary for the learning community to perform its duties.) ;nbsp;Learning communities will be allowed a general fund levy no greater than $1.02 per $100 of property valuation. ;nbsp;Member districts will be authorized to levy up to $1.02 minus the learning community levy. ;nbsp;The learning community can also levy up to 1 cent for the learning community's budget and up to 2 cents for special building funds. ;nbsp;The total combined levy limit is $1.05.

The learning community is also authorized to develop focus schools and programs, which are geared toward meeting more specific goals in addition to the standard curriculum.

Students residing within the learning community can attend any member school with capacity, and the receiving school district will provide transportation.

Beginning in 2009 and every two years thereafter, the learning community must issue a report regarding the diversity and academic achievement of its member schools.

LB 1024 also includes necessary changes to the state aid formula. ;nbsp;One change--an adjustment in the state aid stabilization factor for those districts with declining enrollments and property tax levies of 99 cents or more--will provide more state aid to many smaller schools throughout the state.

Finally, the bill directs the Commissioner of Education to appoint a high needs education coordinator to evaluate and coordinate programs and resources for students who are impoverished, have limited English proficiency, and are highly mobile.

While LB 1024 passed 31-16 and was approved by the Governor on April 13, 2006, resolution of the school boundary dispute is far from over.


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