School choice has been a top priority for Senator Lou Ann Linehan since she joined the legislature in 2017.
School choice is a blanket term for a national political movement that aims to divert taxpayer funds to parents sending their kids to private schools.
Linehan has tried time and time again to get it passed to no avail but she is hoping her newest bill will have the legs to make it through the legislature.
“As many of you know this bill has been in front of the legislature four times previously, maybe 5. So this bill, which is different from previous versions sets up a tier system,” said Linehan during a hearing for LB753.
Linehan’s bill, LB753, looks to provide a non-refundable tax credit for anyone person or corporation donating to a “Scholarship Granting Organization.”
For example, if you donated $10,000 to an SGO you would receive a $5000 income tax credit.
Those scholarships would then be disbursed to students through Linehan’s tier system which would send scholarships first to lower-income students or students who have already received a scholarship.
The bill has received significant support from Linehan’s fellow conservatives in the legislature as well as Governor Jim Pillen.
“We can’t let one kid fall through the cracks and focus on students, not systems. LB753 has my full endorsement and support,” said Pillen.
School officials and career educators worry though that school choice could have devastating consequences for public schools while lining the pockets of private schools.
Tax credits lower the amount of taxes heading to the general fund, potentially limiting the resources schools have available to them.
“We work with students who face significant behavioral challenges, and those who have special education needs. Not because we have to, because we want to. Would students who would have been adjudicated be offered these scholarships? Will schools take them?,” said Dr. Cheryl Logan with Omaha Public Schools.
The system’s potential for abuse was also highlighted at the hearing.
The dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Vanessa Clark, shared her experience with school choice in another state, and her hope that the movement doesn’t take root in Nebraska.
“We saw in Ohio, those private enterprises creeping in with those schools. Misrepresenting what they can offer. Im warning you when you look down the road, people will take advantage of this and they will lie to parents,” said Clark.
Friday’s hearing was just for gathering testimony, the bill has not yet been up for a vote or scheduled for debate.
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