Nebraska leaders form group to fight teachers union effort to repeal state’s first ed choice scholarship program

Editor’s note: On May 30, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed legislation establishing the first education choice program in the state’s history. The passage met with immediate resistance from opponents, who are working to repeal the program by gathering enough signatures to put the measure on the 2024 ballot. They need to get about 61,000 valid signatures from registered voters within 90 days to do so. 

A committee of community leaders and elected officials in Nebraska known as Keep Kids First has launched a decline to sign campaign in response to the teachers union’s attempt to repeal recently passed LB753 – the Opportunity Scholarships Act.

Nebraska’s first school choice program, LB753, which was supported by Gov. Jim Pillen and a supermajority of state senators, will provide scholarship opportunities for students from lower-income and military families, students who have special needs, students who have been bullied, students who are in the foster care system, and students who have been denied public school option enrollment.

For more than a decade, advocates and families have been fighting to pass a school choice program in Nebraska. Those efforts have consistently been met with resistance from special interest groups like the NSEA – the state’s teachers union.

Keep Kids First says it will work to educate Nebraska voters about the Opportunity Scholarships Act, correct misinformation about the program from the teachers union and their well-funded political allies, and urge Nebraskans to decline to sign the petition. Initial members of Keep Kids First include Senators Lou Ann Linehan, Justin Wayne, Dave Murman, Rob Clements, Tom Brewer and Joni Albrecht, as well as community leaders Clarice Jackson, Omaha; Dr. Britt Thedinger, Omaha; Kim Schroll, North Platte; and John M. Dinkel, Norfolk.

On May 30, the 33 state senators who voted for the bill released a statement: “We are deeply disappointed that some in the Nebraska public education establishment are pursuing a multi-million dollar ballot initiative denying opportunities to vulnerable and at-risk children…. We stand united with families and students and are committed to defending the educational opportunities created by the historic passage of the Opportunity Scholarships Act.”

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BY Special to NextSteps