Petition Aims to Repeal Nebraska's Private School Scholarship Law

A petition drive has been launched in Nebraska to repeal part of a law allocating $10 million in state funds for private school scholarships. Supporters aim to collect 61,000 verified signatures by mid-July to force a vote on the issue.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Petition Aims to Repeal Nebraska's Private School Scholarship Law

Petition Aims to Repeal Nebraska's Private School Scholarship Law

A petition drive has been launched in Nebraska to repeal part of Legislative Bill 1402 (LB1402), which allocates $10 million per year in state funds for private school scholarships. The petition, organized by Support Our Schools Nebraska, aims to collect 61,000 verified signatures by mid-July to force a vote on the issue.

Why this matters: The outcome of this petition drive has significant implications for the future of education funding in Nebraska, as it could set a precedent for how state funds are allocated between public and private schools. Moreover, the debate surrounding LB1402 highlights the ongoing tension between providing educational options for families and ensuring equitable funding for public schools.

The petition was approved by Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen on May 7, giving supporters 67 days to gather and submit the required signatures. It seeks to repeal the $10 million appropriation for private K-12 school scholarships, which opponents have labeled as a "school voucher program." If successful, this would be the second petition qualified by Support Our Schools in the last year to overturn a law passed by the Legislature to use state tax dollars to support private schools.

Jenni Benson, president of the Nebraska State Education Association and a member of Support Our Schools, stated, "Nebraskans will not stand for the Legislature's cowardly action of passing yet another voucher scheme designed to block citizens from voting on the issue." Meg Mikolajczyk, executive director of Nebraska Civic Engagement Table and Second House Collaborative, added, "Those senators have threatened the integrity of our democratic system, and we will not stand for it." article

Last summer, petitioners gathered over 117,000 signatures to put a repeal of a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donors who give to private school scholarships on the 2024 general election ballot. However, state lawmakers rendered that referendum effort moot by passing LB1402, which provides a direct appropriation to private school scholarships and ends the tax credit law.

Supporters of LB1402 argue that the law provides children and families with more educational options, while opponents claim it takes away public dollars from public schools. Cynthia Peterson, president of the League of Women Voters Lincoln and Lancaster County, stated, "We believe the final decision on LB1402 should rest with the voters." article

The petition drive will continue until the July 17 deadline to turn in petitions to Evnen's office. If the petition meets the qualifications outlined in state law, it will be placed on the November 5 ballot. The outcome of the petition drive and the subsequent vote will determine the fate of the private school scholarship program in Nebraska.