Capitol Update from Sen. Matt Williams
Greetings District 36. It was a very exciting week in Lincoln. FFA members from across the state descended on Lincoln for the annual state FFA convention. The blue jackets of FFA members are a great sight to behold! I’m so proud of the agricultural programs offered in our schools. It would be hard to find a program more successful than FFA. FFA offers our students exciting learning opportunities that help prepare them for future success.
In 1928, Nebraska FFA became one of the first state charters granted by the National FFA Organization. Over 8,000 students in Nebraska are members of FFA in 176 chapters across the state. Many of these chapters are found in Legislative District 36. Members have the opportunity to participate in ag-focused competitions and activities that enrich a student’s educational experience.Many students were able to visit the State Capitol to learn more about their government. This brief civics lesson is important for our youth. The responsibility of the Legislature is to create the best environment possible for business, including agriculture, our number one industry. The success of our state will depend on these young leaders and the convention gives them the tools they will need to be successful. It is rewarding to see so many participate in this great program and I congratulate those that attended this year’s convention.
There continues to be a great deal of discussion in the Legislature about K-12 education. We have 245 public school districts with 26,000 teachers and 358,000 students across the state. A large portion of our state’s budget goes to fund public education. Each year through the state aid formula (TEEOSA), the Legislature distributes nearly $1 billion to our schools, about 21% of the total state general fund budget. The problem is that under the current formula only 66 school districts receive equalization aid from the state. Only a few school districts in Legislative District 36 receive any meaningful amount of equalization aid. As ag land values have increased over the last decade, the state aid to rural schools has decreased because the TEEOSA formula shows the rural schools have the “resources” available to serve their students. This is simply not a fair result to taxpayers in rural areas.
Few things are more important than the education of our kids. First of all it’s required by our Constitution but more importantly it’s an investment that pays huge dividends in the future. The question becomes how do we continue to fund education and at the same time provide a level of property tax relief. This is the question we wrestle with each day at the Legislature and it will be one of the most important discussions we have in the remaining 30 days of session.