Nebraska moves toward creating school finance commission

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers moved ahead Thursday with a plan to create a special commission that would look at the way the state’s public K-12 schools are funded.

The measure advanced, 37-5, despite opposition from some lawmakers who see it as a way for school lobbyists to secure more money for their districts. Gov. Pete Ricketts has expressed concerns as well, saying he doesn’t want a “rubber stamp” commission that would help build momentum for more spending.

Lawmakers have sparred over the issue because many want to lower local property taxes, and Nebraska’s K-12 public schools are the biggest consumer of that revenue.

Some lawmakers argue that the reliance on property taxes is driven by a lack of state funding, but others say the real problem is schools that tax and spend too much. Opponents have complained that it’s incredibly difficult to change anything because of politically powerful school administrators and the state teachers’ union.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Wendy DeBoer, of Omaha, said she will work with fellow lawmakers on a compromise before the next round of voting. Two additional votes are required before the bill would go to Ricketts.