Highlights of 8/28 Lincoln Board of Education Meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday, August 28, at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St.  The Board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Board adopts LPS budget for 2018-19 year

The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday adopted the 2018-2019 budget, which includes significant investments in safety and security measures, programming with a focus on the classroom, and staffing to support substantial student growth – all while lowering the overall property tax levy one and one-half cents.

In the past five years LPS has grown 4,400 students while the tax levy has been reduced by two full cents (this year $1.22 per $100 of assessed property valuation compared to $1.24 in 2013).  The 2018-2019 budget includes the lowest tax levy on record at LPS in the past 50 years. 

LPS has a solid process for budget development with a continued focus on stability in programming for students and families and opportunity for community feedback.  Overall, the Board reviewed about $31.7 million in increased needs and prioritized them, funding $23.1 million of added needs.  Funded areas include:

  • Providing help to classrooms and schools with:  added teachers and staffing for regular education, special education, early childhood, English Language Learners (refugees and immigrants); added school counselors, social workers, and health care workers.
  • Security measures that include school resource officers at middle schools, broadened threat assessment, mental health supports, funding for Community Learning Centers, an additional security coordinator, and funding to ensure a standard for security measures at the entrances of every school in the district.
  • Funding for growth in additional areas such as instructional materials, technology needs, operations, and transportation.

The 2018-19 adopted budget for LPS totals about $444 million, a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year. That budget is funded by several revenue streams, including two major sources: property taxes and state aid.

Every year the budget process includes an estimate of property valuation growth and every year the county certifies the actual final valuation growth later in August. This summer, LPS officials estimated property valuation would grow by 5.2 percent, and recent final certified valuation was confirmed at 5.5 percent. Due to that adjustment in valuation, the Board of Education Tuesday determined to fund additional critical priorities: technology needs and additions to the LPS bus fleet. 

Board of Education members:

  • Board Vice President Kathy Danek: “This is really a strong budget, it addresses what we need in order to handle the student growth we’ve had – and provides property tax relief for our constituents.”
  • Matt Schulte said he supported most of the budget, but did not agree with using funds resulting from the assessment readjustment for additional purchases.  
  • Barb Baier disagreed: “We have a long list of unfunded needs … .and that concerns me every year … I feel comfortable with this budget … to utilize some funds to make sure our technology rollout encompasses every student is a logical way to use these funds, as well as to continue addressing our continuing backlog of bus needs.” 

LPS uses a three-year forecasting and sustainability model to manage and stabilize the swings in revenue.  During record enrollment growth, state equalization aid remained flat for three years.  Property taxes were the only growing revenue stream to support additional students, increased student needs and new schools. State aid is going up dramatically for 2018-19 based on that growth and will decline again in 2019-20.  LPS manages swings in revenue with transfers into and out of cash flow (the school district savings account).  The 2018-19 budget proposal includes a $7.7 million transfer into cash flow to wisely utilize in the coming year when state aid declines. 

According to the most recent statistics, as prudent stewards of taxpayer money, LPS is one of the lowest spending school districts in the state for per-pupil costs and has been for decades.  LPS ranks 227 out of 245 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending, spending $11,274 per pupil compared to the state average of $12,230.

High-quality public schools at a reasonable price bring tremendous value to our community.   At the same time, the Lincoln Board of Education stands unified with school districts across the state in supporting a more predictable, sustainable system for funding schools. 

LPS announces Open Forums to gather broader engagement on high school question

Lincoln Public Schools will host four Open Forums this fall throughout the community to gain broader engagement on the question of how to best serve current and future LPS high school students.                                                                    

Last year LPS convened a community/LPS High School Task Force to investigate community options and priorities for high school facilities. They shared recommendations last April.   

Citizens who attend the Open Forums will continue that conversation, review Task Force recommendations and offer additional input.

The meetings are set for four quadrants of the city, 5:30-6:30 p.m.:

  •    Monday, Sept. 17, Lux Middle School, 7800 High St.
  • Monday, Sept. 24, Culler Middle School, 5201 Vine St.
  • Monday, Oct. 22, Goodrich Middle School, 4600 Lewis Ave.
  • Monday, Oct. 30, Park Middle School, 855 S. 8th St.

Liz Standish, associate superintendent for Business Affairs at LPS, described two major objectives for the forums:

  • Community engagement: Gathering broader feedback on the work of the Task Force and continuing the community conversation: “We’re thinking deeply about what’s next for high school students in Lincoln – and we want to know what our broader community is thinking.”
  • Setting priorities: As the conversation continues, citizens will speak to what really resonates with them as top priorities emerge.

The meetings will include a brief presentation of the Task Force recommendations, an opportunity for citizens to offer their priorities and an opportunity to submit additional suggestions.

Learn to Dream extends to two years

The Board of Education Tuesday received an update about the Learn to Dream Scholarship – and the good news that students will now have a chance to receive two years of free credits at Southeast Community College, thanks to a recent gift from the Acklie Charitable Foundation.

The Learn to Dream Scholarship was established in 2007 to create an opportunity for every graduating Lincoln high school student to further their education by attending SCC in Lincoln, Milford or Beatrice, available for all low income students graduating from a Lincoln public or private high school. Since the inception of the program, more than 5,000 students have participated in the program.

SCC and Lincoln's high schools partnered with Union Bank & Trust and Nelnet to offer this innovative scholarship program, the first of its kind in Nebraska.  Up until now students have been able to attend SCC for approximately one year of classes without having to pay for tuition and fees.  The donation from the Acklie Foundation will now allow students to complete a second year at SCC, without paying tuition and fees.

Through The Career Academy and other dual high school and college credit courses taught in LPS, many LPS high school students participate in college courses while still in high school.  The extended Learn to Dream Scholarship will help both existing and recently graduated LPS students extend their post-secondary learning and make it possible to reach their dreams.

“This is an incredible community gift,” said LPS Superintendent Steve Joel. “I want to say thank you to the Acklie family and to all those who made this possible … Now it’s up to us to make sure all of our students know about this opportunity.” 

There are a number of eligibility criteria to receive the scholarship, including:

  • Students must be enrolled in LPS or a private school at the beginning of his or her senior year and remain in the district until graduation.
  • Qualifying students who graduate from a LPS or private high school in Lincoln after Jan. 1, 2018, will qualify.
  • They must be eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
  • They must complete the 90 quarter credit hours within 48 months of first enrolling at SCC.
  • They must maintain a minimum cumulative 2.0 grade-point average while enrolled at SCC.

Insurance rates

The Board of Education approved insurance rates for 2018-19.  For 23 years, Risk Management has arranged for the school district’s insurance coverage through an Owner Controlled Self-Insurance program.  The advantages of self-insurance are:  1) lower premiums, 2) district holds funds [in the Insurance Fund] until needed to pay claims, 3) district legal counsel is involved in all lawsuits, 4) all claim settlements are approved by the district, 5) LPS staff and legal counsel are involved in claims from the beginning.

Student Celebration:

Lincoln Public Schools students who participate in the VOICE program – the Vocational Opportunity in Community Experience for students age 18-21 – at 13 sites across Lincoln – have demonstrated great success in learning job protocol, interviewing and career skills, and valuable experiences needed to facilitate a positive transition into adult living after high school.   

The Board heard a summary of the program, and highlights from staff and students. 

Speakers included program leaders:

  • Tonya Jolley, coordinator for VOICE
  • Mary Els, administrator for VOICE
  • Kim Hovendick, VOICE teacher

Former and current VOICE students:

  • Miles Stolte
  • Courtney Roth
  • Jacob Dimmitt

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Published: August 28, 2018, Updated: August 29, 2018