Posted February 6
A bill to shrink the Omaha Public Schools board won second-round approval Wednesday in the Nebraska Legislature. A final vote is expected on Monday which would force the board to have elections this spring.
LB125 has an emergency clause meaning it would take effect right away. The governor could sign it as soon as Monday.
On Wednesday, senators approved round two with a voice vote. Now the bill to shrink the OPS board from 12-to-9 members goes to the bill drafters to examine the language and frame the amendments.
There isn't much time for those who want to run. The deadline to declare candidacy is March 1. The primary will be in April and the general will be May.
Five of the board members just won election to the board in November.
Omaha Senator Scott Lautenbaugh introduced the measure last session and again this session. It passed the first round last week by a huge margin.
Lawmakers advanced the measure by a 37-4 vote. The bill would reduce the 12-member board to nine members and set school board elections on dates that coincide with Omaha's city elections.
Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, who proposed the bill, made the argument that no other committee has 12 members. Choose any city council or county board and you will find five to seven, maybe nine members, but not 12.
"I'm not going to stand here and say everyone on the OPS Board is bad or shouldn't be there, that's not the case, but this district needs a shock to the system. This district needs our focus, our attention and our concern."
"A school board need not have 12 members, that is too large a board, even in cities larger than Omaha,” echoed Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.
The bill would also repeal a requirement that members take their oath of office by a specific date or have their seats declared vacant. The requirement created a legal problem for the board because four new members and two who were recently re-elected missed the deadline.
“Because they didn't do it legally, now we're supposed to straighten it out here and that's not about educating students, that's not about spending money the right way, probably spend some time in here,” said Sen. Norman Wallman of Cortland. “I'm a former school board member, if my district was told to downsize two or upsize two there'd be a lot of discussion and a lot of anger because people care about kids."
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Monday that he planned to file a legal challenge to prevent the members from taking office. Kleine argued that the seats are now vacant.