Today’s passage of LB 753 marks a dark new era for schooling in Nebraska.
The Legislature’s Education Committee considered proposals this year to make school lunches free, broadly prohibit discrimination, include student voices in curriculum decisions, and increase the poverty allowance in TEEOSA. But instead of improving the schools that serve 9 out of 10 children in our state, instead of addressing the needs of over 300,000 students attending Nebraska public schools, 33 senators chose today to prioritize giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations by sending tax dollars to unaccountable private schools.
They did so despite overwhelming and constantly mounting evidence that the implementation of tax-credit voucher schemes does not improve access to private schools or academic outcomes but rather marks the beginning of a devastating dismantling and defunding of public education, as it has in dozens of other states.
Policymakers who voted to pass LB 753 made the wrong choice. Statewide polling consistently shows a strong majority of Nebraskans firmly oppose school privatization measures. From Omaha to Ogallala, and Spencer to Sidney, Nebraskans take pride in our public schools because we know they are the head and heart of our urban and rural communities.
Like our fellow Nebraskans, Stand For Schools remains committed to a vision of public education that is welcoming to all students regardless of their race, religion, gender, or ability. Realizing that vision is neither easy nor politically expedient. It is, for instance, far easier to lean on out-of-state bill mills and think tanks than it is to grow our own nonpartisan solutions to nonpartisan Nebraska problems. It is far easier to demonize the education professionals who work hard in our public schools every day than it is to address crisis-level staff shortages by recruiting and retaining the qualified teachers and school psychologists our students need. It is far easier to restrict the ability of school districts to raise revenue than to finally, fully fund our K-12 public education system. And it is far easier to offload the duties of educating the next generation of Nebraskans to unaccountable private schools than to do the hard work of providing a free, fair, equitable, and excellent public school system that works for all.
Today, 33 senators chose what was easy over what was right. The consequences of their decision will be far-reaching and long-lasting. The hours the Legislature spent debating LB 735 will not compare to the years it will take to undo the damage done to public schools and the harm caused to students, their families, and their communities.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who aren’t afraid of hard work, who are undeterred by today’s decision and determined to make it right. Stand For Schools is proud to join them. Together with the Support Our Schools Nebraska coalition, we will work to put LB 753 on the 2024 ballot and ensure voters’ voices are heard: Not in Nebraska.