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No second school in many rural areasTell North Platte what you think

Vouchers for private school are another form of school choice being proposed in the Legislature. But, vouchers could have minimal effects in rural areas of the state where there is only one school.

LB 608, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would use public tax dollars to create the Parental Choice Scholarship Program.

Qualifying students could apply for a scholarship to attend a private school that chooses to participate in the program.

A student would qualify to apply if he or she lives in a district with a school deemed by the Nebraska Department of Education as "needs improvement," the lowest rating.

Nebraska public school students already have the freedom to opt-in to a different school or district. But Linehan said in some places like Westside School District in Omaha, there are more opt-in requests than spaces available.

Under the bill, the student's public school district would use the money allocated to that child from state school aid and use it to pay for some of the expenses for the private school and establish a property tax relief fund for the district.

Opponents of the bill disapprove of taking money from public schools and using public dollars to pay a private entity.

The bill specifies that the public school district would still hold the responsibility of transporting the student. Even with transportation accounted for, in some rural areas of the state, there isn't a private or parochial school nearby.

Last year, Nebraska's Department of Education designated 87 public schools as needing improvement, its lowest rating for schools.

More than one-third of those are in Omaha and Lincoln.

Forty-one percent of the state's "needs improvement" schools are in counties with no private school alternatives.

The bill was heard by the Education Committee in February, but has not yet been voted on.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/19/2017
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