Dueling campaigns seek signatures for and against Opportunity Scholarships Act

Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 7:06 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - With a deadline looming roughly six weeks out, campaigns both for and against the Opportunity Scholarship Act are heating up.

The bill, which was signed into law in late May by Governor Pillen, almost immediately prompted an effort to do away with it, as well as a movement supporting the act.

The new law will set aside millions of dollars in tax credits towards scholarships to support families and students who otherwise might not be able to attend private school. Now, those dueling campaigns are circulating, and the efforts are ramping up.

When it comes to schools in Nebraska, the future is potentially in your hands. LB 753 is often referred to as school choice and the Support Our Schools Nebraska Coalition, which is backed by the Nebraska State Education Association, is working to repeal the law, saying it should be a choice of the voters in 2024.

“We have been against this bill for many years in many different forms,” said Jenni Benson, NSEA president.

In it’s first year, it would set aside $25 million in tax credits for these scholarships, giving donors a dollar-for-dollar tax break as an incentive, and could grow to $100 million a year.

According to the NSEA, all 93 counties in the state have public schools, but more than half have no private schools.

“To say this benefits all kids is not true,” Benson said. “No one is saying that we don’t have good parochial and private schools, we’re just saying, no tax dollars, no public funds should be going to support those.”

In response to the petition, the group Keep Kids First has launched their own Decline to Sign campaign, asking supporters of the law to sign an ‘Education Freedom Pledge’ to not sign the petition.

“That is just to say, I believe in a parent’s right to choose their child’s education, no matter their zip code or income,” said Lauren Gage, campaign manager for Keep Kids First.

State Senator Lou Ann Linehan introduced the bill turned law, something she had spent the last eight years trying to pass.

“This bill makes sure that every kid in the state of Nebraska, if they’re trapped in a school that’s not working for them has an opportunity to go to a different school,” Linehan said. “We don’t have that right now.”

Benson said the petition needs 60,000 certified signatures for a spot on the ballot, but they’re aiming for 90,000.

Those signatures have to be in by Aug. 30, and while the NSEA didn’t share how many they have so far, they said they’re well on their way.

Keep Kids First said the Decline to Sign campaign has brought in more than 1,000 signatures.