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Students hold signs displaying their support for school choice during a Jan. 25 rally at the state Capitol in Lincoln. Gwyneth Roberts/Lincoln Journal Star

Hundreds turn out to support school choice

They came by the hundreds from across Nebraska – students, parents, teachers, administrators – wearing bright yellow scarves touting their message of support for school choice.
 
They joined Gov. Pete Ricketts, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and several state senators Jan. 25 at the state Capitol for a rally marking National School Choice Week, Jan. 21-27.
 
And state Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn announced at the rally that she will prioritize LB295, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, during the current legislative session.
 
Backed by the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which represents the public policy interests of the state’s three bishops, the legislation would offer tax credits to individuals and corporations donating to organizations that give scholarships to low- and middle-income students to attend private or parochial schools.
 
The governor told rally participants gathered in the Warner Chamber of the Capitol that parents need to be able to make the educational choice that best suits their children’s needs.
 
“Individual students don’t always learn the same way,” he said. “We need to have options for parents and students to make sure that every kid has the chance to live up to their potential.” 
 
That sentiment was shared by eighth-grader Alyson Tule Martinez from St. Thomas More School in Omaha, who spoke at the rally. She told the crowd how much she likes her school and how it is preparing her well for high school.
 
She also credited her parents’ sacrifices and the help of scholarships for making it possible for her and her two siblings to attend the school.
 
“Catholic school is challenging and helps children to be better prepared for their future,” Tule Martinez told the Catholic Voice. “You also get to learn more about your faith and have a better relationship with God,” she said.
 
LB295 is designed to broaden educational opportunities for students such as Tule Martinez. The bill was introduced last session by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, chairman of the Revenue Committee, and was passed out of committee. Linehan’s action will ensure the bill comes to the floor for debate during the current session.
 
“I need your help,” Linehan told the crowd, encouraging participants to “… engage their senators, because it really matters.”
 
Another student in attendance for whom private scholarships made a difference was Maximo Gayton, a sophomore at Mount Michael Benedictine School near Elkhorn, who also spoke at the event.
 
“School choice gave my family the freedom to choose a school that not only fit me, but my siblings as well,” Gayton told the crowd. “My education has given me confidence in my future, and I’ll never forget the help my family has received.”
 
In addition to Mount Michael and St. Thomas More, students and staff from other schools of the Omaha archdiocese attending included All Saints, Holy Cross, Holy Name, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart, Ss. Peter and Paul, all in Omaha, and St. Bernadette in Bellevue.

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