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School choice bill fails in Nebraska Legislature despite unlikely political alliances

Nebraska Legislature-Preview
Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 22:33:42-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — For another year in a row an effort to give underprivileged kids scholarships in order to access Nebraska private schools came to a fight in the Unicameral, and yet again it fell a few votes short of breaking a filibuster.

The bill would have allowed Nebraskans to receive a full tax credit on any donation they make towards private school scholarships for low-income students who currently cannot get into those schools.

That money cannot be earmarked for a specific kid or school and only $5 million can be donated towards the program annually. There would be no cuts to public school funding if passed.

“This is a vote about a parent and a student wanting something better, wanting to access the American dream,” said Sen. Justin Wayne, who represents Florence and parts of North Omaha.

It's a bill that found unlikely political alliances; progressive senators from North Omaha were siding with solid conservatives.

“I’m willing to see this go forward and that might surprise some people,” said Sen. Terrell McKinney.

And Republican western Nebraska senators, like Sen. Matt Williams opposing the bill with staunch liberals such as Sen. Megan Hunt, who led the opposition to the bill.

Omaha Senator Megan Hunt said Nebraskans already get tax breaks for private school donations, but centered her counter on discrimination.

She cited a variety of religious schools that would benefit from the program, who discriminate against LGBTQIA youth.

“It’s not appropriate for public money, tax dollars, to fund that type of bigotry and discrimination,” said Hunt.

Sen. Justin Wayne, who was the most vocal advocate for the bill, continued to say public schools have failed his community and anything the state can do to uplift them could go a long way.

“So if this can save 500 kids, and let’s just say it’s just 100 from Omaha, 100 from east Omaha, that’s not worth the pilot program?” said Wayne.

Nebraska is one of two states in the United States with no major school choice legislation.

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