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Advocates push for more school options

Posted at 8:16 AM, Jan 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-04 09:19:00-05

For this gathering of passionate educational activists, one thought comes to mind.

“Simple. School choice,” says Willie Hamilton of Black Men United.

Tierra Conyers, a senior at Omaha Benson High School Magnet, agrees.

"There does need to be a change in how we choose our educators and who gets to go to what schools and everything,” she says.

Community stakeholders rallied Jan. 3 at the Kumauni Center to support Educate Nebraska, a new education non-profit, as it announced its agenda.

In addition to advocating for school choices, Executive Director Katie Linehan says the organization will focus on teacher support and parent access to school performance data.

While school choices are readily available, the means of selection are limited.

Educate Nebraska is backing a legislative proposal from Sen. Bob Krist, Omaha, to make private education available for low-income families.

“It basically provides a scholarship program for those who may or may not be able to afford an alternative form of education,” Krist says.

It is unclear what will happen to Krist's scholarship bill.

Last year, he introduced similar legislation but the unicameral did not pass it after the education committee approved the proposal.

In addition to supporting Krist's scholarship bill, the group is also pushing for more education choices in Nebraska like charter schools.  

"Charter schools don't cost taxpayers more money,” Linehan says. “Charter schools are publicly funded so the money follows the student."

Organizers and supporters say they are not trying to marginalize public schools or public school teachers.

"This is not anti-public, anti-parochial – things of that nature,” Hamilton says. “This is pro-choice. Simple as that. For parents to have choice on where they send their kids to."