With the possibility of ending the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy counties, the focus shifts to what could possibly take it’s place.
District 49’s State Senator John Murante, along with state senators Bill Kintner and Jim Smith of Papillion and Scott Price of Bellevue, introduced LB 179 to abolish the Learning Community, which pools and distributes tax money to school districts of the two counties based on population and poverty levels.
Murante said that LB 179 helps meet two shared goals of state senators.
“First it treats Sarpy County tax payers with fairness,” he said. “Second, it puts kids in failing schools first.”
Murante said that abolishing the Learning Community would force the legislature and residents of Douglas and Sarpy counties to have a serious conversation about the poor performing schools and how to address it. He said that the Learning Community’s solution of simply giving more money to these schools only continues the problem and does not leave students prepared to enter the work force.
“That hasn’t worked, and it won’t work.”
He said that he is willing to discuss with any other state senators or members of the education community on finding what he considers a real solution.
Gretna Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Riley also felt that should this bill be passed an honest discussion would need to take place to address the issues.
“This happens every year,” Riley said of the bill.
“My question always is the issues of district boundaries and a common levy, or shared resource. That isn’t going away. What will replace the Learning Community?”
He said that though these issues of boundaries and a common levy were raised before the Learning Community began, they will remain despite the bill’s passing.
“I’m not saying anything for or against the Learning Community, I want to know what will replace it,” he said.
However, Riley said there is always a way to overcome such issues, not just make a compromise and pass on the problems.
He said he has talked with Murante and hopes that answers to these issues will be found.
“The question is, can that level of communication and discourse occur?” Riley said. “Don’t know, we’ll see.”
He said that GPS will continue to be a part of any conversation that takes place on the matter, both to ensure the protection of its students and to make genuine contributions toward a solution.
Murante said that the next step for the bill is to go to a committee which will then have a public hearing on the proposal.
“I would encourage everyone to either come to the capitol to testify or write a letter,” he said.
“It is extremely important we hear from the citizens of Sarpy County,” he said.
From there, the bill can either die in committee or be presented to the floor for discussion, which Murante said he sincerely hopes it does.
“We have let this pass for too long,” he said.
Murante said that the issue has to be discussed and addressed by all members of the legislature.
“There are many state senators who are sick and tired of seeing tax payers’ money wasted,” he said.
Should the LB 179 be passed, the Learning Community would dissolve effective July 1, 2014.