The Nebraska Education Department

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Department of Education has hired two consultants to guide schools struggling with low test scores and performance.

The state Board of Education approved two one-year contracts worth $350,000 in total.

The consultants will help intervene in the Santee school district and Schuyler Central High School, which are deemed "priority" schools because of their poor performance.

The Omaha consultants are Ann Mausbach, an associate professor of education leadership at Creighton University, and Linda Richards, a partner in PRISM Advisors.

Hiring private consultants has faced criticism from state board members who say they want to see state employees intervening instead.

The state hired a North Carolina education consultant in 2015, and paid her $4,000 a day. Her firm is still under contract with the state.

In other news

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers who want to lower property taxes and replenish the state's rainy-day fund could have a slightly easier time accomplishing those goals next year, but many are still worried about the impact of major flooding and the struggling farm economy.