New Year promises continued school district growth, debate, but hopefully no snow days

My New Year’s resolution is to have no snow days this school year.   There is often one golden year each decade in a superintendent’s life when all the major storms fall on weekends and holidays.   I think this might be the year.

Too bad that I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions.

I do believe in thoughtful, diligent planning ahead – and we need to be prepared. In the coming months we are going to see a great deal of political discussion centered on the cost of education in Nebraska and what, if anything, can be done to lower or shift those costs so that property tax relief can be obtained. The reality is that in Nebraska – with property tax the primary means for funding schools – our taxes increase as costs and assessed values go up. What needs to be kept in mind, however, is that public education in our state (and, specifically Lincoln) is performing near the top of most national ratings, reflecting the successes we are having with students despite major life challenges such as poverty, family disruption, mental health issues, etc.   To meet growing student needs and numbers, and continue to produce graduates who are career and college ready, will require more resources, not fewer.

And our needs will continue to grow. Based on data compiled by city planners, Lincoln’s population grows approximately 1.2 percent each year. This growth appears to be primarily (not exclusively) in the Stevens Creek area east of Lincoln and the Southeast corridor.   The number of housing units under construction and being planned for construction is startling.   With LPS student growth this year of 990 and a similar number possible for next year, the LPS Board of Education has some serious planning awaiting them.

Meanwhile, LPS students continue to impress.   This holiday weekend, the Lincoln Public Schools student planning committee for the Martin Luther King, Jr. rally put on an incredible show that was quite moving.   We can no longer accept inequity for any person under any circumstances.

In closing and in full disclosure, I don’t think I have ever had a school year without a snow day – in my past 32 years in public education. Oh, well.

 

 

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Stephen Joel

About Stephen Joel

Dr. Steve Joel is the Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools. A native of Long Island, New York, with degrees from Doane College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Kansas State, Dr. Joel has extensive experience as a superintendent in Kansas and Nebraska. Prior to coming to Lincoln, he served for ten years as superintendent in Grand Island and eight years in Beatrice.