As a part of Rebuild Nebraska, we are dedicated to working to ensure that the tax reform discussion currently underway results in a modern tax system with adequate revenue for things like education and healthcare without increasing taxes on families who can least afford to pay.
One of our dedicated board members sought to support us in these efforts by submitting a letter to her local paper broadly describing our principles and inviting people to learn about Rebuild Nebraska’s efforts. In turn, she received a response from the Governor which narrowly focused on one line in the longer letter.
You may notice that the Governor’s letter omits a few years of education funding and only reports this data as one year appropriations – not factoring in inflation or population change. We wanted share the response to the Governor’s letter and clarify the ways that Nebraska has failed to fund education over the past few years:
Thank you for responding to my letter. Although my letter was intended to convey only an overall message on responsible tax and budget decisions, I am happy to provide further details on my views on education spending. I appreciate that well-meaning people can have different perspectives on issues and I think that is the case with education funding.
While overall TEEOSA numbers are helpful, they aren’t the only way to measure spending in the context of number of students, inflation, increases in federal spending and other factors. In addition, I noticed that there are years that are missing from the numbers you provided in your letter.
First, total General Fund spending on the Department of Education was cut in FY 11-12 and FY 12-13:
General Fund K-12 Appropriations with Federal Stimulus
Total GF with Stimulus
In addition, a September 2012 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Nebraska’s per-student inflation adjusted spending is down 1.1% since 2008 and the cut between FY12 and FY13 was 5.2% or the second largest in the nation.
In both 2011 and 2013, the state funded K-12 education at a rate below what the state equalization formula (TEEOSA) called for. LB 235 in 2011 reduced it by about $189 million to $222 million per year and LB 407 in 2013 cut it by about $36 million to $42 million per year.
Finally, a report from the Open Sky Policy Institute found that TEEOSA funding is now at its lowest level as a share of the economy since the formula was implemented in 1990.
These factors led me to include that there have in fact been cuts to education. In addition, until more of our children are reading at grade level, I believe we still have work to do in ensuring that our schools have the resources, financial and otherwise, that they need to help all of our children succeed. I appreciate that we have different perspectives on this issue and thank you for the opportunity to respond to your letter.
At Voices for Children in Nebraska, we remain committed to telling the whole story for our state’s kids. Sometimes it takes digging beyond the surface to reveal what’s really going on so we can tell a more complete story of what’s happening. We are so thankful for our board members, supporters and partners who help us do that.
It takes all of us working together to ensure that our leaders are listening.