Public school advocates protest ‘opportunity scholarship’ bill in Nebraska

Thousands of public school advocates gathered on the steps of the State Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday to protest against a bill that would incorporate public funding towards private schools. The legislation, known as Legislative Bill 753, proposed by State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would enable state tax credits for those who donate to organizations offering scholarships for private school students. Critics of the approach suggest that this would divert public funds away from public schools in Nebraska.

Linehan has persistently pushed for “school choice” legislation throughout her seven years in office. If successful, the legislation could allow an estimated 5,000 students to switch to private schools using scholarships. However, teachers marched in downtown Lincoln shouting in support of public schools and public funding leading up to the rally. Yesterday’s rally ended with teachers reaffirming their commitment to fighting against this legislation, which they feel will hinder the progress of public education in Nebraska.

Despite the significant resistance from public-school advocates and teachers, Linehan’s bill has unprecedented support from the Legislature, including from State Sens. Terrell McKinney and Justin Wayne, both of Omaha. The legislation has garnered support even after two rounds of voting leading up to Saturday’s protest. Public school advocates have indicated that if the final decision is made in favor of the bill, they will bring the matter to a public vote.

State Sen. George Dungan, a Nebraska-based freshman, spoke in support of public schools at the rally, emphasizing the significance of public schools in building bright futures for students. Dungan, who graduated from Lincoln Southwest High School, attended university in Kansas and saw the “Brownback experiment” – when then-Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill that dramatically cut taxes – fail, which resulted in inadequate pay for teachers and schools shutting down due to a lack of funding.

However, opponents of the legislation, including educators and the National Education Association, say that the proposal would only benefit those who are already wealthy, and that private, religious or charter schools would “intentionally discriminate” based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability. Duff Martin, a Wisconsin educator and executive committee member for the National Education Association, also criticized the “school choice” movement in his state, citing that the funds saved through tax credits have drained public schools.

Recognizing that Nebraska’s success is due in part to its dedicated support for public schools across the state, it is no surprise that opponents of the bill propose that the state should prioritize the improvement of teachers’ paychecks and boost staff morale. Advocates, including State Sen. Dungan, stress that Nebraska must not sacrifice the centerpiece of its community, public schools.

Related Articles

Back to top button