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Public vs. Private: Nebraska’s school funding debate heats up

Activists are claiming a partial victory in their efforts to repeal a Nebraska law that allows taxpayer money to be used for private school tuition.

Opponents of the law have gathered nearly twice the required number of signatures to put the repeal on the 2024 ballot. If the repeal succeeds, Nebraska would join North Dakota as the only state without public payment for private school tuition.

The law in question would allow various entities to donate their collective state income tax to organizations funding private school tuition scholarships. Both sides acknowledge that the battle over this issue is far from over, with supporters of the law declaring a partial victory because they prevented a pre-January 1 deadline repeal and opponents remaining hopeful of repealing the law before its full implementation in 2025. The debate reflects a national trend of education policy battles following COVID-19 lockdowns and issues related to transgender policies.

Associated Press reports:

“If this initiative makes it onto the 2024 ballot, I can promise you the fight will not be over,” Gov. Jim Pillen said.

Both Nebraska and North Dakota passed bills earlier this year to fund some private school tuition. North Dakota’s bill set aside $10 million in taxpayer dollars for private school tuition reimbursement. The legislation was later vetoed by the governor.

The effort to protect Nebraska’s law has drawn conservative support nationally, including from the American Federation for Children, founded Betsy DeVos, former Trump administration education secretary. National groups are trying to make their mark on school policies following COVID-19 lockdowns and ongoing fights over transgender policies.

Nebraska’s law would allow businesses, individuals, estates and trusts to donate millions of dollars a year they owe collectively in state income tax to organizations funding private school tuition scholarships.

Support Our Schools, an organization sponsored and heavily funded by public education unions, began gathering signatures June 6 with a goal of collecting 90,000 in three months. By Wednesday’s deadline, the group turned in 117,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, which will spend the next few weeks determining whether enough of them are valid for the question to make the ballot.

Read the full article.

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