Charter schools could come to Nebraska

Posted at 6:49 PM, Mar 14, 2017

Charter schools have never been allowed in Nebraska but under LB 630 that could soon that could change.

But it’s getting a lot pushback from many in the public education sector in Nebraska.

During a packed hearing room on Tuesday, both sides voiced opinions on the divisive issue.

“We have some of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, we are failing kids on their skin color and economic status,” said the bill’s sponsor Senator Tyson Larson.

LB 630 would legalize charter schools in the state in the lowest performing school districts like the Omaha Public Schools district. Currently Nebraska is just one of 6 states without any charter schools.

Both sides of this issue held rallies at noon, one heavily attended outside at Capitol against this bill, and one inside, much more subdued.

“Charter schools open doors to children and the money belongs to the children,” said Katie Linehan, president of Educate Nebraska.

Linehan said on average a charter school would add 40 days of learning for math and 28 days for reading.

“That’s weeks of extra learning of just being in a charter school,” said Linehan.

Jason Epting is originally from North Platte, Nebraska and is currently a principal  of a charter school in New York and says the school works for his kids.

“No kid should just have one option and if it’s a failing school and that’s the only place...the kids just gets further and further behind,” said Epting.

However opponents say charter schools wouldn’t serve students in the best way to help all students.

“Omaha has focus in magnet schools under the umbrella of the Omaha public schools system that are helping students in unique and individual ways,” said opponent Lisa Fricke.

And Fricke said the schools should be taking more of the money allocated to education when the state is already in a pinch.

“It would be tough for our schools to function when you have tax dollars going to charter schools,” said Fricke.

Instead of an elected public school board, the governor and state board of education would choose a board who controls the programming for the charter schools.