A last minute move by a legislative committee sets up a debate next year on a hot-button issue.
The Revenue Committee has advanced a measure which would give a tax break for donations to private school scholarship funds.
Superintendent Patrick Slattery with the Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Omaha says many Nebraska parents engage in school choice now, either by moving into a desired public school district or by paying for private schooling.
“But wealth and luck should not be the determining factors as to who gets a choice in finding the right educational fit for their child,” according to Slattery.
Slattery also rejects criticism that the bill undermines support for public schools.
“One thing I want to make very clear, LB 295 and school choice, these topics, they don’t equate to being anti-public school. I do want to thank our public school educators for the tremendous work they do,” Slattery says. “But at the end of the day, this conversation, this debate is not about public schools, not about private schools, it’s not about the institutions, it’s about empowering Nebraska parents to choose the right educational fit for their child.”
Legislative Bill 295 advanced on the last day of the legislative session after a 5-3 vote by the Revenue Committee, making it available for debate during next year’s legislative session.
The bill proposes enacting a tax credit for any donations to non-profit scholarship organizations, which are required to turn nearly all of their revenue into scholarships to private schools.
The bill has the backing of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which says it is similar to laws in 18 other states, including the neighboring states of Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, Revenue Committee chair, says he understands many lawmakers oppose the proposal.
“I’m optimistic that we can move this forward. I think this is good for our families, our children and, ultimately, our businesses in Nebraska to be able to provide school choice,” Smith says. “So, let’s see what a year brings, but I do anticipate that there will be some differences of opinion, but I’m optimistic that we can make the case for this.”