Archives for category: Nebraska

Nebraska is one of the few states that has thus far managed to keep the privatizers out. That makes it a tempting target. Here is a message by one of the state’s strong advocates for public schools.

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As you know, Stand For Schools is dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska. Our work involves not only advocating for evidence-based policies that would help schools serve all students better, but also being vigilant for and responsive to efforts to privatize our state’s public schools. 

Because Nebraska is one of only three states wise enough to avoid charter schools, private school vouchers, or scholarship tax credits, our state is viewed as prey by corporate reformers and proponents of school privatization. We have been aware of this target on the backs of Nebraska’s children and families for years, but something new and profoundly troubling has come to light this week. 

The American Federation For Children (AFC), an organization founded and largely funded by Betsy DeVos, is attempting to directly influence Nebraska elections.

Campaign filings reveal that William Oberndorf, a billionaire hedge fund manager from California, has donated $125,000 to Nebraska Federation for Children, and the organization is spending $25,000 in each of two legislative races in Nebraska

For decades, Oberndorf has spent huge sums of his fortune to influence elections and education policy across the country. Oberndorf succeeded Betsy DeVos as AFC board chair, so while he is not new to the school privatization agenda, his political campaign contributions are new to Nebraska.

Oberndorf was notably a board member of and major investor in Voyager, a computer software and hardware company masquerading as literacy curriculum, which not only produced negative academic outcomes but also cost taxpayers billions during the No Child Left Behind era – all while lining the pockets of Oberndorf and others. Government investigators would later find the entire organization was “very close to a criminal enterprise,” with referrals made to the Department of Justice.

Oberndorf’s large contribution caught our attention, but he is hardly the first out-of-state billionaire attempting to advance his agenda in Nebraska–a state where voters and nonpartisan legislators have rejected school privatization time and again.

Over the last few years, we have listened intently to testimony given at our State Capitol by paid fellows flown into the state by AFC. We read the editorial published in the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this year penned by a lawyer from another Koch-funded group, Institute For Justice. We have seen more than one nonprofit pop up in our state – one which failed to disclose their donors in a timely manner as required by federal law and another, Invest In Kids Nebraska, that is the local arm of AFC. And every year, we watch the governor host a rally on the steps of our Capitol coordinated and funded by National School Choice Week, which is itself an enormous web of dark money, special interests, and corporate lobbyists. 

The evidence is clear: School privatization does not benefit students or low-income families; it benefits wealthy privatizers like William Oberndorf. 

Nebraskans deserve to know about the presence of out of state money in our democracy and the attempted interference on education policy by special interests that will directly impact our schools and communities.

We are a state widely known and revered for our unicameral legislature. Our Second House is supposed to be the people of Nebraska and our best interests – not people like Californian William Oberndorf and his financial interests. Nebraska has some of the most lax campaign finance laws in the country, and that needs to change.

As always, Stand For Schools remains committed to advancing public education in Nebraska, and that means doing our part to inform the people of our state about threats to our public schools. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit that does not endorse any political candidate – but we believe Nebraskans deserve to know the truth about who is spending money in our elections. 

Stand For Schools is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska by advocating for evidence-based policies to close the opportunity gap and ensure schools have the resources they need to serve all students better – no matter their race, ethnicity, nationality, citizen status, language, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or
special need. You can find our organization’s Form 990 here. 

Nebraska loves its public schools!

It remains one of the few states to reject vouchers, charters, and the Common Core.

Nebraska’s Legislature said NO again to vouchers!

 

From: Stand for Schools <info@standforschools.org>
Date: Wed, May 15, 2019 at 2:46 PM
Subject: With your help, we defeated LB 670!

 

Thank you.  
For the third year in a row, with your help, we did it. 

On Monday, Senator Linehan’s tax-credit scholarship bill, LB 670, had its floor debate. Senators from across the state spoke out in strong opposition and successfully filibustered another effort towards school privatization. 

This is an achievement worth celebrating. Nebraska remains one of only a handful of states without charter schools, vouchers, or tax-credit scholarship programs despite study after study demonstrating just how harmful they are.

We at Stand For Schools are proud of the hard work by many this legislative session to protect our state’s excellent public schools and advance public education in Nebraska. Please know your calls and emails have made a difference. Thank you!

Thank you also to the many, many senators who listened to you and engaged in such a respectful and robust debate Monday afternoon.

Together, we did it!

We hope you’ll keep Stand For Schools in mind during Omaha Gives and Give to Lincoln Day! (Or click the button below to make a donation now.)

We couldn’t do this important work without the generous support of our donors.

Donate Now

 

 

The Network for Public Education Action Fund is delighted to endorse Paul Theobald for the Third Congressional District seat in Nebraska.

We proudly endorse Paul Theobald for the third Congressional district of Nebraska. Mr. Theobald is a former college dean and a farmer. Most important of all, he is a fearless supporter of public education.

Mr. Theobald understands the importance of the rural school and he is adamantly opposed to rural school consolidation. He believes that standardized testing should be “optional” for any district that can demonstrate that its students are learning well. He sees testing as a way of “maximizing corporate profits.”

Finally he has pledged to do all in his power to fight the proliferation of charter schools that are privatizing American public education.

We hope that you will join us and support Mr. Theobald on November 6.

Betsy DeVos did not visit a public school in Omaha, somewhat strange since almost all children in Omaha attend public schools.

She visited the Nelson Mandela Elementary School, then visited a Catholic school. Her snub of public schools was blatant.

At the Mandela school, she was greeted by the founder, Dianne Seeman Lozier and by students and teachers wearing pro-public school stickers.

Several teachers and students wore “NE (Heart) Public Schools” stickers.

While Mandela is a private school funded by the Lozier Foundation and William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, Lozier said in a release that school officials do not support charter schools, which DeVos has championed. The school has a strong cooperative relationship with OPS [Omaha Public Schools], she said.

“We agree with Secretary DeVos on rethinking how schools engage and teach students, however, we want to be clear that we are not advocates for charter schools,” Lozier said. “We don’t think taking money away from public schools is the right decision and are adamant that public school systems need those dollars to educate all students.”

In February, Mandela Principal Susan Toohey told The World-Herald that she was “extremely disappointed” by DeVos’ confirmation, which came on a razor-thin 51-50 Senate vote.

“We absolutely don’t think taking money away from public school systems is the right decision,” Toohey said then.

Nebraska was not fertile ground for DeVos’ message of all-choice-all-the-time.

Nebraska Loves Public Schools!

Betsy DeVos visits Omaha today.

She must be upset that Nebraska has no vouchers and no charters.

Nebraska has great public schools!

What she doesn’t know:

NEBRASKA LOVES PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!

Earlier I posted a list of Republican senators who had not yet declared how they would vote on DeVos and her radical privatization agenda for our public schools. One by one, the list has been shrinking. At this point, there is only one Republican senator who might vote NO (I say this with the caveat that someone might surprise us): Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska (she was not on the earlier list).

Nebraska has no charter schools, no vouchers. It has a strong tradition of public education. According to Wikipedia, Senator Fischer’s mother was an elementary school teacher in the Lincoln, Nebraska, public schools. I’m willing to bet that Senator Fischer is a graduate of public schools. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska.

Which way will she go? Will she support public schools or open the door to public funding (and regulation) of religious schools? Will she give the High sign to entrepreneurs and out-of-state corporate charter chains to poach students and money from Nebraska’s public schools?

Will she preserve her mother’s legacy? Millions of parents and teachers are waiting to find out.

Stand with us, Senator Fischer. Become a hero of American public education.

If you live in Nebraska, call her. If you don’t, send her an email or a tweet.

The Senate will probably vote on Friday.

Nebraska has one of the best state school systems in the nation. It does not have vouchers or charters. Its students do far better on NAEP than most states that won Race to the Top grants.

But the public schools of Nebraska are under attack by mean-spirited politicians who want to destroy public education and turn children over to the free market to monetize.

The meanest of them is Senator Michael Groene, who is chair of the state senate committee on education. Hard-right Republicans in Nebraska have been following the same plan as Hardliners in Kansas, North Carolina, and Michigan, which is to replace reasonable, moderate Republicans with extremist ideologues. Groene is one of them.

Read his email exchange with a constituent about education, and you will see his hatred for teachers and his grand ego.

Teachers are lazy and second-rate, he says, protected by tenure. As the exchange continues, his hatred grows more intense.

People like this want to destroy public education, destroy teaching as a profession, and drag down a great democratic institution that made America great. Like his peers in other red states, he wants to turn schools over to profiteers and Wall Street, to turn taxpayer dollars into profits for investors.

Shame on him.

Ferial Pearson is a college instructor in Omaha and a former teacher in the public schools who has embarked on a mission of kindness. In this newspaper article, she wrote a letter to the teachers of Omaha to thank them for their hard work and their many successes. The letter got a lot of buzz in Nebraska and on social media because some politicians have been bad-mouthing the public schools, as part of their cpaign for vouchers.

Change the name of the city and state and the letter would sound right in every district.

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Dear Omaha Public School teachers,

I see you. I see your work. I know you are doing innovative, creative, pedagogically sound things. I know how much you care about your students and how hard you love them. I know this because I’ve been in dozens and dozens of your schools in the past three years and have been blown away by your talents, skills and resilience. I know because I taught at Omaha South High School for 10 years and Ralston High for two, and I lived it. I know because I have now taught more than a hundred of you in my classes at the College of Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha over the past six years.

We have laughed and cried together about our work and our students. You have been brave and vulnerable in sharing your struggles and insecurities, and we have grown, so much, together. I know because I go to IncluCity Camp with your students and hear about how much they are learning and how much they look up to you. Are there some bad eggs? Absolutely. But the good ones outshine the bad. By far.

On Monday, I read about an Omaha South High student from Mexico who was accepted to Harvard. Two years ago, while observing a practicum student at Omaha North High, I met an African American student who was trying to decide between two Ivy League schools that he had been accepted to, one of which his brother was already attending. I have seen my own students go to Yale, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and many, many other schools.

Some have doctorates, others are Licensed Mental Health Care Professionals, teachers with graduate degrees, social workers, social justice advocates, rock star chefs, phenomenal mechanics, welders, professional artists, utility line workers, day care providers, professors, lawyers, medical doctors, writers, business owners, professional musicians, fashion designers, funeral directors, athletes, mentors, and the list goes on. I could tag them all here, but you’d be reading until next year.

These are students of different races, abilities, backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders, and nationalities. Last week, I met a young man who now works Centris Credit Union, thanks to the innovative work of staff at Omaha South High who collaborated with Wells Fargo to open a branch in the school so that kids could do actual banking and that provided him with a direct line to his career today. I remember the Packasso Project, the brainchild of Fairouz Bishara and the Art Department at Omaha South High School getting talented artists off the streets and giving them legitimate canvasses and artist mentors from across the community. There are stories like this in almost every school in this city.

So, dear OPS teachers, when the education reformers tell you that you are failing at your job based on test scores, or that your schools are “bad” or “failing” please tell them the stories of your students. Never stop bragging about your students. Tell them that the ones don’t make it aren’t suffering from an achievement gap; they are suffering from an opportunity gap and that is something that the community needs to help us with.

We do what we can with what we’ve got, and when the soil is fertile and the sun shines and there is enough water, our seeds thrive and bloom into gorgeous blossoms. Sometimes, we plant a seed in a child, but that child is in dry and barren soil, is traumatized, and doesn’t know when it will rain next, and so we nurture them as best we can. They may get that sunshine and rain and food years after we let them go and we’ll never see the fruits of our labor, but they come back, sometimes, and they show us their flowers. Some never do, and that’s sad, and we do our best anyway.

Tell the education reformers that rather than taking our resources away to try and do better than us in a different place with our kids, whom we love, that there are already great things happening here, and we could use those resources to become even better. We are not perfect, but we are doing great things and willing to improve. Tell them to work with us to care about the whole child. To help us get those children their sunshine and soil and food and water. We’ll take care of their brains and hearts if the community will help us take care of their bodies as well.

Thank you for doing what you do and being who you are. You are my heroes.

(Note: This goes for ALL my public school teacher friends, not just in Omaha, and to the paraprofessionals and custodians and administrators and media specialists and cafeteria workers and office assistants and..and…)

Sincerely,

Ferial Pearson

Nebraska is a remarkable state. It is one of the few states in the nation that has not authorized charter schools. All of its publicly funded schools are public schools. Yet now there is a renewed push by far-right extremists to introduce charter legislation. This is a terrible idea.

 

Charters are based on false promises. They do not “perform” better than public schools.

 

Charters divide communities and erode public support for public education.

 

Nevada doesn’t need charters. It is one of the top-performing states in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. On the latest NAEP, Nebraska came in 9th in the nation in fourth grade math, 12th in the nation in eighth grade math, and 11th in the nation in reading in both 4th and 8th grades. Nebraska had higher scores on NAEP than all but one of the 18 states that won Race to the Top funding (Massachusetts).

 

The low-performing schools in Nebraska are the schools with the poorest children. Please, Nebraskans, direct your reforms at root causes and do not destroy your state’s effective public schools.

 

Don’t be lemmings. Stay independent from the crowd that is rushing to privatize and destroy your treasured public schools.

This was written before I spoke in Omaha, but the reporter was well prepared and got the gist. Actually when I spoke to him, I had not yet written my speech.

 

What I said in Omaha:

 

In a few words: You are too independent, too smart, too stubborn to follow everyone else over the edge of a cliff. You have saved tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of dollars by losing Race to the Top. You are a model for the nation. And without having adopted any of the so-called “reforms,” Nebraska is one of the highest-performing states in the nation on NAEP. In fact, Nebraska outperformed every state that won RTTT except Massachusetts.

 

Nebraska surprised me. It dragged its feet implementing NCLB. It put in a proposal for Race to the Top, but fortunately lost. It has no charter schools, no Common Core. It didn’t get a waiver because the state doesn’t want to evaluate teachers by test scores. The state commissioner Matt Blomstedt has decided not to ask anymore but to wait and see if NCLB is overhauled.

 

The state is mainly rural so there is not much enthusiasm for charters except in Omaha, where there is a poor black community. Some black leaders think that charter schools will be a panacea. Some white legislators agree. But so far no action on that front.

 

Despite the fact that Nebraska avoided almost every part of the reform menu, its students did very well on the 2015 NAEP. The state was in the top tier, ranked 9th or 11th in the nation. It outperformed every Race to the Top winner except Massachusetts, which has been number1 for years.

 

Nebraska is a conservative state, in the best sense of the word. It doesn’t believe in following the crowd. It doesn’t want to blow up its public schools and hope for the best. It wisely decided to wait and see. No creative disruption. No experiments on children. Just common sense.

 

Also, being a state where people know one another in small cities, towns, and rural communities,  Nebraska loves its public schools. Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, sent his own children to Omaha public schools.

 

But there is a new governor, and he is convinced that Nebraska needs charters, vouchers, virtual schools, the whole bag of privatization schemes.

 

 

Hopefully the good citizens of Nebraska will persuade him that conservatives don’t destroy; conservatives conserve. Hopefully, they will inform the governor that Nebraska’s public schools are among the best in the nation.

 

If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.