Fight rages on over Nebraska’s ‘School Choice’ law

Two advocacy groups continue to duke it out over Nebraska LB 753
The fight continues over Nebraska LB 753, more commonly known as the 'School Choice' law, as one group races to get the bill on the 2024 ballot.
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:10 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Since LB 753, the “Opportunity Scholarship Act” - otherwise known as the “school choice” bill was signed into law, two groups have been going head-to-head.

One group is fighting to repeal it, the other fighting to keep it in place.

The law authorizes $25 million in tax credits for those who donate money to private schools in the state, and eventually that number will jump to $100 million.

The community is torn over the law; some say it will help minority communities across the state, and others disagree.

“Immediately withdraw the petition repealing LB 753 the opportunity scholarship act,” Tanya Santos said Tuesday night at Holy Name Elementary School’s back-to-school event, flanked by Senators LouAnn Linehan and Justin Wayne.

Santos is with the “Keep Kids First” organization, a group that supports the new school choice law.

Tuesday, she and others asked families and community members to “decline to sign.”

“Every child in the city and the state deserves a choice of education that is the right fit for them,” Santos said.

That “decline to sign” slogan references a petition created by a coalition of non-profits, teachers unions, and others called “Support Our Schools,” or S.O.S., for short.

If S.O.S. can gather 90,000 valid signatures by Sept. 4, it would put the school choice issue on the November 2024 ballot, giving Nebraska voters a voice in the matter.

“Ninety percent of the kids in Nebraska are in public schools,” said Pastor Michael Williams with the NAACP of Omaha. “And because they’re in public schools we need to make sure they get the funding they need. this is going to divert funding away from them.”

Williams was the first to sign the S.O.S. petition.

“This discriminates and allows for discrimination of kids of color, kids that maybe have behavior issues.,” Williams said.

But those in support of the law say it does the opposite of what Williams and S.O.S. supporters believe.

“I actually attended this amazing school behind me, only thanks to private donor scholarships,” said Jayleesha Cooper. “Without scholarships, that would not have been a reality for me, and it would not have been a reality for many students standing next to me today. But it’s time for Nebraska to provide this opportunity to more students.”

Keep Kids First is now directly reaching out to those who have already signed the S.O.S. petition and is encouraging them to have their names removed from the petition.

While they argue it prioritizes students of color, others say it instead prioritizes the rich.

“Taking money out of those public schools, those cornerstones of our communities, in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy is not how we prioritize our communities and it’s not how we build a future and a Nebraska where our kids can thrive,” said Brad Christian-Sallis, with Nebraska Civic Engagement.