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Giving families the opportunity to change their story

“Imagine if you were this parent: you saw your kid every night struggling in their school [and want to send them to a school that would be better for them]. You work hard all day long, but you know no matter how hard you work, you’ll never be able to send your kid to a better school.”

Now imagine these words were spoken not from a parent, but a grateful daughter. From a young age, Jayleesha could see how hard her mother worked to provide a better education for her and her brother. Her mother worked “day and night,” but it wasn’t until Jayleesha and her brother were awarded scholarships through the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha that they were able to enroll in Holy Name School.

Jayleesha, now a senior at Duchesne Academy, confidently shared her story with the Revenue Committee of the Nebraska Legislature last Thursday.

Through a strong school community and an education plan to fit her needs, she has thrived academically and is excited to attend the University of Chicago (with a full scholarship!) in the fall.

“But there are many kids who grew up just like me who do not have these experiences,” Jayleesha explained to the committee. “A lot of my friends who wish they could have gone to private school are struggling in school or have become pregnant or have gotten involved in gangs.”

She is convinced that there are kids who work just as hard as she has who could have gotten a scholarship to college, like she did, if they have only been afforded the opportunity to go to a school that was best for them.

This is what LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, is all about – giving kids and families the opportunity to change their story, to break a cycle of poverty, to thrive and be grateful for a better education. The legislation serves families that qualify for free and reduced lunch, and nothing in LB364 reduces funding for Nebraska’s public schools.

When I first started at the Nebraska Catholic Conference, I didn’t know much about school choice. I grew up attending and exceling in public school. A good education was of the upmost importance to my family, and my parents were able to choose where we lived and the schools I attended.

But not everyone is like me. Every child learns differently, and parents should be able to help their child find the best education regardless of income or ZIP code.
Passing LB364 seems like it should be common sense. And I’m sure many of you who have read the NCC’s columns throughout the years are wondering when we’re going to pass it already! But the truth is, there is so much misinformation and unfounded opposition that keeps kids like Jayleesha from finding an education that will work better for them.

But we are reaching a tipping point. More and more Nebraskans are seeing how important school choice is and how LB364 can help not only kids, but the future of our state. In the words of a nervous and brave parent testifier, “[School] choice for me is not about politics, it’s about securing a better education and future for our children.”

You can watch many of the proponent testimonies from the LB364 hearing at facebook.com/necatholic. If you are moved by their stories (or even have a story of your own), please contact the members of the Revenue Committee and urge them to support LB364 and give more kids and families a chance to thrive:

Senator LouAnn Linehan, introducer of LB364 – llinehan@leg.ne.gov
Senator Joni Albrecht – jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
Senator Eliot Bostar – ebostar@leg.ne.gov
Senator Tom Briese – tbriese@leg.ne.gov
Senator Mike Flood – mflood@leg.ne.gov
Senator Curt Friesen – cfriesen@leg.ne.gov
Senator Brett Lindstrom – blindstrom@leg.ne.gov
Senator Rich Pahls – rpahls@leg.ne.gov

To learn more about scholarship tax credit legislation, visit investinkidsnebraska.org.

You can keep up to date on this bill and get action alerts on other important bills by joining our network at necatholic.org. Together, we can bear the Light of Christ in the public square.

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