Gov. Jim Pillen proposes $2.5 billion fund for Nebraska schools

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Together with 10 state senators, Gov. Jim Pillen announced Tuesday a package of bills funding schools in Nebraska.

One of the bills would establish the Education Future Fund.

“We are going to invest $1 billion in state general’s fund into a fund dedicated for education in fiscal year ’23-24,” said Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood. 

After the initial $1 billion, $250 million would be designated from the state’s cash reserve each year until the fund reaches $2.5 billion.

Pillen said increasing state education funding is the best way to reduce property taxes.

He noted that the cash reserve is projected to hit $2.3 billion by the end of fiscal year.

“We’re addressing the needs of kids and property taxes, which was promised four or three decades ago,” Pillen said. 

Tim Royers, president of the Millard Education Association, expressed optimism about the plan.

He said that for too long, Nebraskans have been forced to choose between having strong schools and reasonable property taxes. 

“In fact, Nebraska is 49th in the country when you rank what percentage of funding the states provide for its schools system,” Royers said.

His association is the teachers union in the state’s third-largest school district.

Another of the education bills was introduced by Sen. Rita Sanders of Bellevue.

It would provide $1,500 in “foundational aid” for every public school student in the state, she said. 

The bill would also require that 80% of special education funding come from federal and state dollars.  

Pillen also supported a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Briese that would cap revenue increases for school districts at 3% per year. 

Pillen said he talked to superintendents from across the state to listen to their needs. 

Royers said he hopes more teachers are included in the education funding conversation in the future. 

“The reason why it’s really important to include classroom teachers as they work with the details of this proposals is educating right now looks nothing like what it was even three or four years ago,” he said.  

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