League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha

Action Alert: Oppose LB295, A Bill Opening the Door to Charter Schools

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LB 295 would allow for the adoption of the Opportunity Scholarships Act. STATUS:  PRIORITY BILL ON GENERAL FILE. Introduced by Smith; heard Jan. 26, 2017.

Under the act, individual and corporate taxpayers would qualify for a non-refundable tax credit equal to the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship-granting organization. Each nonprofit, scholarship-granting organization certified by the Nebraska Department of Revenue shall provide education scholarships to assist eligible students to attend a qualified, nonprofit, private elementary or secondary school. The Act defines an eligible student as a dependent member of a household that has a gross income that does not exceed two times the required level for the federal reduced-price lunch program. This is 370% of the poverty level which is far higher than allowed for breakfast and lunch programs for students in poverty.

The League supports a free public school education through 12th grade, age not a limiting factor.  The League opposes any attempts to legislate the funneling of public tax funds toward charter schools and private schools.

Loss of funds for support of public schools will be significant, estimated to be $10 million the first year and rising to $15.6 million by 2020-21.  This at a time when the state is struggling to maintain a healthy General Fund.

Loss of support from the General Fund will put pressure on local taxing bodies to increase levies (on property taxes) or lose vital services offered by public schools.

The bill would benefit wealthier families the most, who could probably already afford private school tuition.  The 370% of poverty level is a distinct gift to 40% of families earning more income compared to all other Nebraskans.

It bestows a definite tax benefit to those donors, who can claim a tax credit up to $10,000.

Of greater concern is the tax benefit to businesses, trusts and estates, and corporations, all of which can contribute up to $50,000, $50,000, and $150,000 respectively, all of which could be described as “dark money.”

IT’S TIME TO STOP THIS SLIPPERY SLOPE TO CHARTER SCHOOLS.

— Sherry Miller, League of Women Voters of Nebraska President

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