Former scholarship recipient understands the importance of the Opportunity Scholarships Act
August 17, 2023
Students for whom Holy Name Catholic School is the best fit might never get a chance to attend that school if a petition drive achieves its goal of undoing a new state education law, according to a former student.
“I actually attended this amazing school behind me, only thanks to private donor scholarships,” Jayleesha Cooper said. “Without scholarships, that would not have been a reality for me, and it would not have been a reality for many of the students standing next to me today.”
Cooper and others spoke in the Holy Name parking lot earlier this week on behalf of Keep Kids First, an organization that supports LB753, the Opportunity Scholarships Act. The law was passed by the Legislature this spring and sets aside $25 million a year in tax credits for those who contribute to a scholarship-granting organization assists families in choosing private schools.
Opportunity Scholarships prioritize students growing up in poverty, students who have been bullied, children with exceptional needs and those who have been denied option enrollment for these scholarships, which come from private funds.
A petition being circulated by Support Our Schools Nebraska, which is backed by state and national teachers unions, hopes to collect valid signatures from 5% of registered voters, approximately 60,000, by Aug. 30. If that happens, voters will decide in the November 2024 election the fate of the Opportunity Scholarships Act. Support Our Schools could even collect enough signatures to put a moratorium on the law, preventing students from receiving Opportunity Scholarships.
Keep Kids First is asking Nebraskans not to sign the petition and to have their names removed if they have already signed.
Tanya Santos, a former principal at Holy Name, urged Nebraska’s teachers union to drop its opposition to the law that she said will help level the academic playing field for low-income and minority students.
“The teachers union is fighting against students who need another option that is the best fit for them,” Santos said.
Nebraska has 135,000 school-age children growing up in poverty, according to Nebraska Department of Education data on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
One of five students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch will not graduate high school on time, compared to one in 10 students from higher-income families, state graduation data shows.
“We must do everything we can to help parents without means send their children to the school that best meets their needs,” Archbishop of Omaha George Lucas and Creighton University President Father Daniel Hendrickson wrote in the Omaha World-Herald this week.