Nebraska Catholic Conference celebrates advancement of school choice bill
Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) officials, and members of several other organizations advocating school choice, celebrated May 23 the recent vote of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee to advance a school choice bill to the full Legislature.
The committee voted 5-3 May 18 to advance LB295 (the Opportunity Scholarships Act), which calls for state income tax credits for individual and corporate donations to scholarship funds used for private schools. The proposal will be considered for debate when state senators gather again next year.
The vote marked the first time a school choice bill advanced, and Tom Venzor, NCC executive director, noted the significance during a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda.
With the advance of the Opportunity Scholarships Act, lawmakers are telling Nebraskans they are being heard “when it comes to school choice and that empowering low and middle-income families with educational opportunities for their children is important in this state,” Venzor said.
Patrick Slattery, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Omaha, said the bill is important because families new to Catholic schools often struggle meeting the costs. “Wealth and luck should not be the determining factors as to who gets a choice in finding the right education for their child,” he said.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion and Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha were among others joining Venzor for the news conference. Smith said “it’s a good time in Nebraska to have the discussion on the floor of the Legislature next year.”
Krist, who first introduced school choice legislation in 2009, also voiced his support for the current bill.
“It’s been a long time, but things that are very worthwhile usually do take a little bit of time,” he said. “Now the tough part starts.”
The bill limits the credits to $5,000 for individuals ($10,000 for couples filing jointly) and $50,000 for businesses, and was amended in committee to cap total tax credits at $2 million for 2019, down from the $10 million cap in the original bill. The cap would increase by inflation, plus 20 percent, after each year that 95 percent of the credits were claimed.
In addition to the NCC and the Archdiocese of Omaha, others at the news conference included students from Catholic Schools in Lincoln and representatives of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.