Nebraska lawmakers debate school choice legislation

Opponents argue this takes away from public schools.
Iowa private schools can now take tax dollars after a bill is signed by Gov. Reynolds
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:26 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - From the state capitol today -- something resembling a scene from a Harry Potter film.

The scarves come with a message -- it’s National School Choice Week.

Governor Pillen used the backdrop to push his plan, earmarking $25 million as a tax credit so more lower-income children can go to private schools.

“That $25 million scholarship act will be focused on kids in poverty, foster homes and special needs,” Pillen said.

It’s an idea that’s been rejected before by Nebraska lawmakers. Last year, it didn’t have enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

School choice was the main topic of discussion in the unicameral Tuesday.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt says the bill comes down to the government interfering with market prices by using taxpayer dollars to make it cheaper to go to private schools, who according to Sen. Hunt, discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth.

The lawmakers who attended today’s proclamation don’t understand why Nebraska is one of two states that has not yet passed a school choice program.

“We’re talking about kids in ZIP codes that don’t have any other options except to pay tuition or go to public schools they’re zoned to,” said State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan. “They might thrive in another school. They ought to have the option.”

LB753 spells out requirements when it comes to the tax credit.

LB177, the second piece of legislation, is similar to Iowa’s new law.

Per, the average tuition for private schools is $3,600 for elementary schools and $7,900 for high schools. says Nebraska has more private-school students per capita than most other states.

Legislative public hearings have not yet been scheduled for either of the bills.