LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, was debated by the Nebraska Legislature last Wednesday. Several State Senators tried to kill this bill, which would help provide private school scholarships to low-income families, with a filibuster. After an eight-hour debate, it fell four votes short of the 33 votes needed to break a filibuster. The vote was 29-18 (two were “present-not voting”).
While this was not the outcome we were hoping for, we made a lot of positive progress in the fight for school choice. Here are a few highlights from the debate and conversation surrounding LB364:
Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, who introduced this bill and has made this and bills like it her priority for four years, stood courageously for parents and kids throughout the eight-hour filibuster. Committed to moving the legislation forward, she even offered compromise amendments to address the concerns of her colleagues, but opponents refused to find common ground for the benefit of low-income families.
Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha, who used to be opposed to proposals like LB364, announced that he is now all in for scholarship tax credits in Nebraska and pointed out that many of those who oppose school choice have school choice for themselves and exercise it: “Many of people who speak up against this bill have quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, ‘A right delayed is a right denied.’ Well, this is a right being delayed every year for my community. Don’t quote that when it’s convenient; be an ally when it’s not.”
Senator Mike Flood of Norfolk, who was a key vote to advance LB364 from the Revenue Committee, challenged Senators who want to protect public schools that they can be for all schools, because it is about options for parents and kids. After hearing the testimonies during the committee hearing of students whose lives were changed thanks to private school scholarships, he admitted that it’s hard to oppose this bill when “we’re talking about a tax credit that drops something special in the life of a third grader.”
Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, a strong and public supporter, penned a powerful op-ed in the North Platte Telegraph saying, “Senators in the Legislature are killing bills that would help a poor kid get into the same private school their own children attend. It suffices to say, the Legislature needs to hear from the people... I encourage citizens to learn how their senators voted on this.” (Find this at necatholic.org)
Jeremy Ekeler, associate director of Education Policy, wrote in the Lincoln Journal Star: “Nebraska’s achievement gaps say it all: Disadvantaged kids and underserved populations are hurt most when we do not expand educational options. It is time to level the playing the field and let all kids have the same chance at success. It is time to empower all parents to choose what is best for their children’s education.”
We are so grateful to all those Senators and advocates who spoke up for parents and children with LB364, even amid strong opposition.
Some of the biggest obstacles in advancing school choice in Nebraska are misinformation campaigns and intentionally misleading arguments, which can be disheartening. But I am encouraged by this verse from Ephesians, chapter 6: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Those who oppose us are not our enemies, and lies and misinformation will only go so far. The truth will win in the end.
Thank you for all your efforts this year to help us advance LB364 and parental choice. We will need you next year, and the year after that, as we continue to fight for educational freedom for Nebraska families!