Learning Community holds first meeting since...

Posted at 11:03 PM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 00:03:42-04

One of the big developments of the legislative session was the elimination of the common levy for the learning community.

That move affects 11 school districts in the Omaha area and thousands of students.

Thursday night the Learning Community Coordinating Council held its first meeting since those decisions from lawmakers.

While the common levy is going away, the learning communities will still continue. The levy was formed in 2007 to resolve a contentious boundry and funding disputes among the 11 metro school districts.

Now the schools return to the funding system the rest of the state provides-property taxes.

“We now have a very clear direction from the legislature that they want us to continue that effort and to work in collaboration with the districts as well as the state,” said Lorraine Chang, chairwoman of the Learning Communities Coordinating Council.

Chang said the lack of common levy funds doesn’t change its collaboration with the 11 districts.

“We believe that we have the resources to continue with our mission,” said Chang.

The common levy is something Sarpy County school districts have wanted eliminated for a long time.

 “I didn't feel that it was working right and we know now that it wasn't working right,” said Mike Avery, vice-chairman of the Learning Communities Coordination Council from Gretna.

Part of the goal of the common levy was to pool resources to help students in poverty and other programs.

“It didn't do what it was supposed to do as far as balancing the funds, those with needs would get it,” said Avery.

But for Ralston Public Schools, a landlocked district, they relied on this extra cash in their strapped budget.

“Because we live in a place where the chance of declining property valuation is real, so when that happens you rely more on state-aid and that sometimes fluctuates,” said Ralston Public School Superintendent Mark Adler.

Adler said the common levy supplied around $200,000 dollars this past year, now projections show they will barely break even.

“We are going to be conservative in our approach and work as much as we can to protect the things that are most important for our kids,” said Adler.

The common levy goes away at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.

There is a transition aid to the school districts who relied on the money for the next two years.

The Learning Community Coordinating Council has hired a new CEO tonight, David Patton, a former Omaha Public Schools Administrator.