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Proposed bills would impact rural schools in Nebraska PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 26 February 2015 04:00

By Erika Stewart-Finkenstaedt

Nebraska News Service


Sen. Al Davis is concerned about rural Nebraska.

The state senator from Hyannis introduced two bills in front of the Legislature’s Education Committee Tuesday, Feb. 17, that would have a direct impact on small communities in the state.

LB595 would create a task force to examine issues of school construction, including infrastructure needs and how to provide funding.

“My hope is that we can enable the state to ensure that every Nebraskan is educated for success,” Davis said at the hearing.

The bill would reduce pressure on local taxpayers and give guidance to smaller communities that don’t have expertise, according to Davis.

Kyle McGowan, superintendent of Crete Public Schools, spoke in favor of the bill.

It is “vital to maintain safe and secure locations to students and the general public who use them daily and year round,” McGowan said.

Caroline Winchester, superintendent of Chadron Public Schools, also supported the bill.

Schools need information in order to make strategic choices when given limited funds, Winchester said.

Virginia Moon of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators said the task force would help provide a picture of what the needs are across the state.  According to Moon, since communities now only have one tool when it comes to funding–bonds– “the group would allow another set of tools to provide for schools.”

The 10-member task force would be made up of two members of the Legislature, a capital construction specialist, and other members of the community.

No one spoke against the bill.

Also introduced by Davis, LB477 would change procedures relating to school districts with only one high school in the county.

Under current law, a high school with fewer than 25 students can contract with another school district for one year, and then change to Class I if enrollment is below 50.  LB477 would allow such a school to continue operating if it is the only public high school in the county and a majority of the district approves each year.

Taylor, the only town in Loup County, is currently the only town facing such a situation.

Wayne Ruppert, superintendent of Loup County Public School, testified in favor of the bill, stating that the transportation time needed when students attend schools outside the county cuts into time spent learning.

Robert Christensen, a member of the board of education for Loup County Public School, also supported the bill.

“We are working hard to provide students an exceptional education,” Christensen said, “But we are facing multi-faceted difficulties.”

When Sen. Sullivan, chairperson of the Education Committee, asked how the patrons in the district felt, Christensen said they want to keep the school.

The quality of education would be “no better if they join another school,” he said.

No one spoke against the bill.