The past few months, I‘ve learned many valuable lessons as a rookie superintendent.
I’ve learned that York Public Schools and many other Nebraska public schools do an incredible job teaching and mentoring our students. Whether I have toured another public school district or have seen a great idea posted on social media, there have been numerous examples of public school districts creating many outstanding opportunities for kids.
Unfortunately, the past few weeks, I have experienced the “negative/ugly” side of education that has challenged me to make sure I stand up for what I believe is right. Two recent examples come from our state leaders, Senator Mike Groene and Governor Pete Ricketts. Senator Groene, the Nebraska Legislature Education Chair, recently spoke to a large group of public school superintendents and elected board members at the Nebraska Association of School Boards annual legislative conference. At this event and many others, Senator Groene has made it well known he believes that superintendents and school boards are not being responsible with taxpayer money. At one point in his presentation Senator Groene told the large group that public school superintendents and school board members have their “hands around the necks of our taxpayers and are shoving them up against the courthouse wall”. Personally, I was offended by this comment considering everything York Public Schools has done to lessen the over-reliance on local property taxes. Two days later, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts posted a press release titled, “Delivering Property Tax Relief for Nebraskans”. Governor Ricketts, a school choice advocate, continued to promote that public schools are overspending and are to blame for high property taxes. Many public educators, administrators, and school board members have attempted to get to the “root” of the problem, but Governor Ricketts wants to continue to blame and not acknowledge that Nebraska is ranked 49th in the country for state assistance in education.
In my 21 years at York Public Schools, I can assure you our great community that YPS has worked hard to provide our students a great education. Matter of fact, we’ve made many hard decisions and have direct evidence that our spending is not the problem. The York Public Schools school board, administration, and entire staff have done an excellent job of controlling spending while still increasing learning opportunities for our students.
The following data points illustrate we have a school funding problem despite some saying that high property taxes are due to excessive school spending:
• Nebraska K-12 schools receive 49 percent of their funding from local property taxes while the national average is 29 percent. Over 67 percent of the YPS 2019-20 funding came from local property taxes
• Nebraska K-12 schools receive 33 percent of their funding from state sources while the national average is 47 percent. Just under 17 percent of the YPS 2018-19 funding came from state sources.
• York Public Schools has a total of 7.5 fewer teachers and administrators and 16 fewer support staff members than we did in 2007 despite seeing an increase in student enrollment.
• Our revenue from state equalization aid has plummeted from $2,214,826 in 2014-15 to $815,448 in 2019-20. This is approximately a 63% decrease.
If Senator Groene or Governor Ricketts would like to see a community that pays high property taxes due to lack of adequate funding and still continues to support the mission of their pubic school, I extend them the invitation to explore the opportunities the York community has given many of our students.
York Public Schools will continue to be fiscally responsible with property tax and state revenue funds. We will continue to look for ways to help our local tax payers and ag land owners by creating conservative budgets, while still making sure we maintain our campuses and provide a high quality education for all students.