No sooner than the ink was dry from the Governor signing the Opportunity Scholarships Act (LB753) into law, the Nebraska State Education Association (otherwise known as the public teachers’ union) filed a petition with the Nebraska Secretary of State to place LB753 on the ballot as a referendum in 2024. In short, the teachers’ union wants to repeal our historic school choice win. This effort would strip parents of their right and ability to access the best education possible for their children.
Let’s use a Q&A to talk about why this petition and repeal effort is flawed, and why—when you are approached to sign the petition—you should DECLINE TO SIGN!
What is LB753, the Opportunity Scholarships Act?
LB753 is a scholarship tax credit policy that has been supported by Nebraska’s Bishops for two decades. This policy provides educational opportunity to Nebraska families who cannot otherwise afford the best education possible for their child.
LB753 ensures that our state’s poorest and most vulnerable students have access to increased scholarship opportunities. For example, the Opportunity Scholarships Act provides priority eligibility to students who are at or below 100% of the federal poverty level (such as a family of four with a household income of $30,000). It also provides this same priority eligibility to children who have been bullied, are in the foster care system, have special needs, are in a military family, or have been denied public school option enrollment. After this priority eligibility, there are additional categories for families who qualify for the reduced-lunch program (185% of federal poverty), the children’s health insurance program (213% of federal poverty), or are at or below 300% of the reduced-lunch program.
LB753 provides these increased scholarship opportunities by allowing taxpayers with state income tax liability to redirect a portion of their liability to scholarship granting organizations, which then distribute scholarships to families.
Was LB753 a popularly supported policy in the Nebraska Legislature?
Yes, very much so. LB753 passed with a super-majority of support of both Republicans and Democrats, and was championed by Senator Lou Ann Linehan, chairwoman of the Revenue Committee. In addition, Governor Jim Pillen made the policy a major priority of his first year in office and provided the necessary room in his budget for the passage of LB753. Dozens of programs like LB753 also exist in other states and are thriving!
Why would somebody be against the Opportunity Scholarships Act?
There have been many arguments against scholarship tax credit legislation policy over the years, and nearly all of these arguments have been rooted in some falsehood, deliberate misinformation, or an attempt to smear non-public schools, such as Catholic schools.
The biggest argument advanced against the policy is that it will “hurt” public schools, most especially funding of public schools. However, this claim could be no further from the truth. School choice policies are nothing new, even if Nebraska was the last state in the nation to pass a school choice policy. These policies are supported by dozens of empirical studies showing that “school choice programs improve academic outcomes for not only the program participants, but also the students in public schools; save taxpayers money; and reduce racial segregation.”
On top of all this, the Nebraska Legislature recently passed historic public education funding which will infuse nearly $1 billion of increased financial support for public schools.
So what’s really at issue then?
It boils down to one basic issue: whether parents are honored and respected as the first and primary educator of their child, and whether the government has a fundamental obligation of making sure families—particularly low-income families—have access to an education that is best for their child.
What happens if LB753 is repealed?
Plain and simple, Nebraska’s lowest-income and other vulnerable children will continue to lack the financial resources they need to get an education that is best for them. Kids have one shot at their K-12 education, and we need to do everything we can to make that shot count. LB753 is all about keeping Nebraska’s children first.
What if somebody asks me to sign a petition to place LB753 on the ballot?
Charitably “DECLINE TO SIGN” the petition. As we’ve experienced for the last 20 years trying to pass school choice legislation, the opposition will engage in a full-throttle campaign of misinformation against school choice. The Nebraska Legislature—elected by the people of Nebraska—has decided well: we need school choice; we need to help kids; and we need to get it done now. Kids are our future, and we need school choice to ensure the future is bright!
Where can I find more information?
As the effort against LB753 progresses, the Nebraska Catholic Conference will have the information you need to be equipped as a school choice advocate. Join our network at www.NEcatholic.org/TakeAction and stay up to date now! God bless your efforts!