The Truth about School Choice in Nebraska

I am thrilled to share an op-ed with you that addresses some of the most pressing concerns regarding School Choice, a cause I wholeheartedly support. The Midland Voices article by Senators Lou Ann Linehan and Brad Von Gillern examines the misinformation spread by the Nebraska State Education Association in an attempt to repeal the Opportunity Scholarships Act. I encourage you to read the article, as it highlights the significant efforts made by Governor Jim Pillen and the Nebraska Legislature to increase education funding and provide additional support for both schools and teachers. The Opportunity Scholarships Act is a crucial step toward empowering parents to choose the best education setting for their children.

“Midland Voices: Misleading petition drive ignores record Nebraska public school funding” by Lou Ann Linehan and Brad Von Gillern

The Nebraska State Education Association, the state teacher’s union, is misleading Nebraskans while gathering signatures to repeal a new law giving parents the right to choose the best education setting for their child. The teacher’s union claim that the Opportunity Scholarships Act will take money away from Nebraska’s K-12 public schools is simply not true, yet it is their leading argument for repeal of the law.

The facts tell a much different story.

Gov. Jim Pillen and the Nebraska Legislature increased funding for K-12 public schools by hundreds of millions of dollars this past legislative session and set aside $1 billion dollars to establish the Education Future Fund from which dollars will be directed to education priorities. An additional $250 million will be transferred annually to the fund to pay for the state’s increased commitment to public school funding.

One of the newly funded education priorities addresses what had become a glaring disparity in state funding distributed among Nebraska’s school districts. For several years most districts, including many rural districts as well as Omaha Westside, have received little to no funding from the state’s school equalization formula. Gov. Pillen recognized the lack of fairness for those school districts, students and local property taxpayers and secured a monumental change in education funding resulting in no less than $1,500 per student being directed to every public school. (School districts receive as much as $10,500 per student in the case of option enrollment students or more than $6,000 per student in state funding for “highly equalized” school districts.)

In addition, using dollars from the new Education Future Fund, the state will reimburse school districts for 80% of their special education costs, which doubles the state’s share of those costs.
This is on top of the state’s existing annual commitment to funding K-12 public education, which totaled more than $1.5 billion in state general fund tax dollars in fiscal year 2021-2022.
The Legislature also addressed the need to recruit and retain teachers by creating and funding a new state grant program. Teachers will now receive a grant of $2,500 after completing each of their second, fourth and sixth years of teaching for a total of $7,500. But that’s still not all. Any teacher who returns to school to earn a certificate with dual credit, special education, or STEM — critical teacher shortage areas in Nebraska — will receive a $5,000 grant. These two grant programs are in addition to a student loan forgiveness program passed in 2022 by the Legislature providing up to $25,000 per new teacher.

In addition to these historic increases in state funding for public schools and dollars directed specifically to teachers, this year the Legislature also passed billions of dollars in income and property tax relief. Included in the tax relief packages were two tax credits specifically addressing the needs of Nebraska parents. One tax credit helps parents with children ages six and under pay for childcare,and the other is the Opportunity Scholarships Act that supports the parents of school age children. Both of these programs are initially capped at $25 million, but will grow if needed.

Of all the new tax relief measures and education funding programs, the teachers unions are only working to repeal the Opportunity Scholarships tax credit with their petition effort. They refuse to accept that all parents should have a right to choose the education that best meets their child’s needs regardless of their income. With more than $1 million already invested in their repeal petition effort, most of which is from the national teacher’s union, they are determined to keep students in schools that aren’t the best fit for their success.

The teachers union is misleading Nebraskans about state funding for public schools while working to steal opportunity and hope from parents and students with their attempt to repeal the Opportunity Scholarships Act. The new law will give families of students from middle and lower-income families, students who have been bullied, those with exceptional needs, in foster care, from military families and students denied option enrollment in a public school the ability to receive a scholarship to attend the school of their choice.

Nebraskans should reject the petition campaign being waged by the teachers union. Decline to sign their petition and keep kids first.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this information and op-ed. I remain committed to supporting initiatives that empower parents and ensure every child receives the education they deserve. As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email:

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