Oct 11, 2023

Secretary of State certifies public school supporters’ petition, Repeal LB 753 heads to 2024 ballot

Posted Oct 11, 2023 2:00 PM

Karen Kilgarin

LINCOLN – The Nebraska Secretary of State’s office announced today that county officials have finished verifying thousands of signatures collected this summer to place LB 753 before Nebraska voters on the November 2024 ballot. The Secretary of State’s certification means election officials have confirmed petition circulators met all constitutional requirements. In August, public school supporters submitted 117,145 signatures - nearly twice the required number - from 5% of registered voters in more than 60 counties, far surpassing the 38-county requirement. 

“The overwhelming success of this petition sends a clear message to the Governor and state lawmakers: Nebraskans want to vote on the issue of diverting public tax dollars to pay for private schools,” said Jenni Benson, a sponsor of Support Our Schools Nebraska and president of the Nebraska State Education Association. “This was a decisive victory and the first step to ensure public funds are used to support public schools, not private schools. Nebraskans cannot afford to pay for two school systems. Now we redouble our efforts to inform Nebraskans of the harm LB 753 will cause if it is not repealed.”

The controversial bill was signed into law earlier this year after numerous failed attempts and despite strong opposition from a diverse coalition of parents, teachers, faith leaders, and education policy experts. Polling consistently shows most Nebraskans oppose measures that divert public dollars to private schools, with 55% of likely voters in favor of repealing LB 753. Nebraska is currently the only state with a school privatization referendum on the ballot in 2024.

“Time and again, voters across the country have rejected voucher schemes, which have proven to be expensive, unaccountable, and ineffective. Next November, the nation’s eyes will be on us, but Nebraskans know better. We saw the devastating consequences of privatization on our child welfare system, and we won’t let that happen to our public schools, which are some of the best in the nation and the heart of our communities,” said Connie Duncan, board president of Stand For Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska.

The national attention will also mean continued interference in Nebraska’s elections by out-of-state special interest groups like those affiliated with Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, who is the primary financial backer of LB 753 and who has been pressuring Nebraska policymakers to pass school vouchers for years. According to campaign filings with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, DeVos-funded groups still have millions of out-of-state dollars to spend during the 2024 election cycle after spending $710,000 on legislative races in 2022 and over $1 million this summer in an unsuccessful effort to thwart the Support Our Schools Nebraska petition and prevent Nebraskans from voting on LB 753. 

Brad Christian-Sallis, Director of Power Building with the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, said, "Despite the attempts of some politicians and wealthy special interests to deny everyday Nebraskans a voice, the people have spoken. Nebraskans have clearly said, 'We want to protect and support our public schools and the children they serve.' That’s because we understand our communities thrive when we invest in public education, and not by giving away resources to those with no accountability to the public. By repealing LB753 we can stop essential resources from being taken away from our communities, our public schools, and our children."

Under LB753, taxpayers can divert up to half of what they owe in state taxes to support private schools. Individuals and corporations can annually divert up to $100,000, while estates and trusts can divert $1 million. Statewide, the dollar-for-dollar tax credits could grow to $100 million within 10 years, reducing state revenues available to fund public education and other priorities.

“We know Nebraska voters care about their tax dollars, and the next 13 months are a great opportunity for Nebraskans to learn about the tax implications of LB 753,” said Dr. Rebecca Firestone, Executive Director of OpenSky Policy Institute. “With LB 753 on the ballot in November 2024, we can have a public discussion about how we pay for our schools and whether tax dollars are going to the priorities that all of us care about as voters, or whether we want Nebraska’s policymakers to keep directing state dollars to opaque tax breaks that are likely to benefit some taxpayers over others.”  

Beyond its fiscal consequences, those working to repeal LB 753 have serious concerns about its impact on students, families, and teachers. The bill lacks necessary transparency and accountability requirements, which are especially important given that private schools are allowed to discriminate in admissions and disciplinary decisions, unlike public schools which are open to all children. 

"Public education is not only a public good, it’s a moral one,” said Rev. Michael Williams, president of the Omaha NAACP and community affairs liaison with the Baptist Pastors and Ministers Conference of Omaha. “These so-called scholarship programs won't help the kids in my neighborhood because it's not about helping low-income kids. It's about creating another way for wealthy people and corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. That's an opportunity the rest of us don't get, and it will hurt the community schools that provide opportunities for every child - no matter their race, religion, language or special need."

The Support Our Schools coalition wishes to thank the thousands of individuals who volunteered their time, donated their hard-earned dollars, signed the petition, and ultimately ensured that all Nebraska voters will get to exercise their right, as our state’s Second House, in November 2024 to repeal LB 753 and keep public dollars for public schools.  

Groups that support repealing LB 753 include the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, the ARC of Nebraska, the Nebraska Farmers Union, the Parent-Teacher Association of Nebraska, Holland Children’s Movement, Stand For Schools Nebraska, OpenSky Policy Institute, Omaha NAACP, Nebraska State Education Association, Center for Rural Affairs, Baptist Pastors and Ministers Conference of Omaha. 

For more information on the campaign to repeal LB 753, please visit:

Website:            https://supportourschoolsnebraska.org/

Facebook:          https://www.facebook.com/SOSNebraska  

Twitter:                https://twitter.com/SOSNebraska  

Instagram:         https://www.instagram.com/sosnebraska