State aid to schools bill advances

After 2 hours of debate, state lawmakers have advanced the state aid to schools bill.

In a 41-0 vote, the bill passed first round of debate.  The bill would change the current state aid to an education needs-based formula.  This would mean a cut of $130 million from the $950 million schools received this last school year.

Many state senators spoke out against the cuts, however, admitted the cuts are necessary to balance the state budget.  Governor Heineman and state lawmakers are dealing with a $986 million budget gap.

If passed, it could mean fewer teachers, larger class sizes and less technology for Nebraska schools.  Lincoln Public Schools stand to lose 13.7 million dollars alone. The President of the Nebraska State Education Association predicts there will be teacher cuts, and teachers not replaced by those who retire this year. He hopes, however, that cuts happen as far from the classroom as possible.

“New computer purchases for a year or waiting on a new text book series. Neither one of those are really favorable but we know that the teacher in the classroom is the biggest impact other than the parents on how well the student does and so we believe that's where we need to make sure the money is placed is as close to the classroom as possible,” Jess Wolf of the NSEA said.

One reason the cut seems so large this year is because last year education got help from both the federal and state stimulus packages. However, the president of NSEA says education is still getting less than they did a few years ago without the stimulus packages.