Nebraska Faces Final Push for School Vouchers on 2024 Ballot

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Written By Kanisha Laing

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As Nebraska approaches the November ballot, Support Our Schools is making a final push to gather signatures for its petition aimed at repealing the Opportunity Scholarships Act. This effort marks the last petition drive in the state this year, with a deadline of July 17 to secure 61,000 valid signatures from across Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Tim Royers, spokesperson for Support Our Schools, remains optimistic about reaching the required threshold despite facing challenges in distinguishing this year’s petition from the previous one. Many potential signatories are under the impression that their previous signatures suffice, requiring outreach efforts to clarify the need for new signatures.

The focus of the petition is the Opportunity Scholarships Act, a legislative initiative championed by State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn. This revised act aims to broaden school choice options for Nebraska families, offering alternatives when traditional public schools do not meet the needs of students.

Linehan emphasizes that the legislation addresses concerns raised about previous versions, including enhanced funding for K-12 education and special needs programs.

In contrast to past campaigns, there has been no organized “Decline to Sign” movement opposing the petition drive. Support Our Schools has invested significantly in this effort, reflecting the magnitude of the issue and the stakes involved in the upcoming election.

Critics, led by the Nebraska State Education Association, argue against using public funds to support private K-12 education. They express concerns about equity in educational access and fear that diverting resources could undermine public school financing.

Lauren Gage, spokesperson for Opportunity Scholarships of Nebraska, reports a groundswell of support for the program. More than 2,100 families have already signed up for scholarships for the upcoming school year, with pledges exceeding $2.15 million in funding. Gage anticipates further growth as awareness of the program spreads and the legislative changes take effect.

The debate over school vouchers underscores deep-seated divisions in Nebraska’s educational policy landscape. Advocates on both sides are mobilizing to shape the future of school funding and choice statewide.

Proponents argue that parents deserve the flexibility to choose the best educational options for their children, especially in cases where traditional public schools may not meet their needs adequately.

Opponents, however, contend that voucher programs could exacerbate inequalities in education, favoring families with financial means and potentially siphoning resources away from public schools that serve all students, regardless of background or ability.

As the petition drive enters its final stages, Nebraska voters are poised to weigh in on this critical issue. The outcome will not only determine the fate of the Opportunity Scholarships Act but also shape the educational landscape for years to come, reflecting broader debates about equity, choice, and the future of public education in the state.

In conclusion, the November ballot will be a pivotal moment for Nebraska, where voters will decide the direction of educational policy amid contentious debates and passionate advocacy from all sides.

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