The president of the Nebraska State Education Association made a swing through the western part of the state late last week, meeting with rural school representatives to hear their concerns about issues facing their districts.
One area of concern according to NSEA President Jenni Benson is state equalization aid, especially in light of the current push for property tax relief.
Benson tells Rural Radio News with Nebraska about 47th in the nation in aid to public schools, some 178 districts receive no aid whatsoever, the drive for tax relief has to strike a balance. “There has to be a way to figure out, without blowing a hole in the budget, how do you then generate the revenue that will help equalize,” says Benson. “They have looked across the board of saying ‘Okay, what if we get every district or student a base amount across the state’. But again, where do you get that money?”
Benson says many school officials are also concerned about teacher retention, particularly in rural areas and especially when it comes to specialized services. “We expect that all children are able to receive what they need, and what they may not be in their regular classroom. It may be in a self-contained classroom, it may be with different services, but every child deserves the opportunity to learn. And we want to make sure we understand what that is and what that looks like.”
She says she hopes to tackle those issues and many others in the upcoming legislative session.
The full interview with Jenni Benson: