Amendment to change makeup of State Board of Education draws opposition

Feb. 7, 2024, 9 a.m. ·

The Nebraska State Capitol builiding in Lincoln, Nebraska
The Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln. (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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A proposed constitutional amendment that would change the makeup of the State Board of Education drew opposition Tuesday at the Legislature’s Education Committee hearing.

Currently, the board has eight members elected from eight districts across Nebraska. State Sen. Dave Murman’s proposal would change that to seven members with two positions appointed by the governor, two elected statewide and three representing each of the state’s congressional districts.

Board President Elizabeth Tegtmeier represented the board in opposing the amendment. She said Murman’s proposed model could leave rural communities with no representation.

“If we had our district one and two elected, and if the governor appointees as well as the statewide candidates were from Lincoln or Omaha, and with Blair being in [Congressional District] 3, they could potentially have a candidate from there, and we would have no representation West of Highway 81,” Tegtmeier said.

Tim Royers represented several school organizations opposing the amendment, including the Nebraska State Education Association and Stand For Schools. He said the proposed change could make it so certain regions have more representation on the board over others.

“Nebraska is a large state with diverse perspectives and demands,” he said. “The current State Board of Education being made up of eight members coming from eight distinct districts gives citizens across the state the ability to have their voices heard when critical decisions are made regarding the education of our children.”

Those against the amendment said it would be harder to campaign and keep up with constituents across a wider area, whether it’s statewide or the congressional districts.

Murman said he introduced the amendment because he felt the current map of the districts is a mess, the even number of members could bring important issues to a halt and the board didn’t seem to align with the rest of the state on certain issues.

“A lot of the reason I brought this bill was a couple of years ago, there was concern in at least a lot of the state that the State Board of Education seemed to be out of touch with some of the values the state had,” Murman said.

No one spoke for the bill at the hearing. Of the written comments, there were four proponents and 70 opponents.