Legislative victory ensures school choice for thousands in need

Thousands of Nebraska families in need will continue to have education options after Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill supporting scholarships that help families in need attend private schools.

On April 18, the final day of the legislative session, state senators voted 32-14 to pass Legislative Bill 1402. Before the vote, the controversial bill won the minimum 33 votes needed to end an opposing filibuster. Gov. Pillen signed it into law on April 24. 

LB 1402 will appropriate $10 million a year for private-school scholarships for children in grades kindergarten through 12 and from low-income families, military families or who are in foster care or have experienced bullying.

In a social media post, Gov. Pillen praised the new law as “giving eligible Nebraska students an opportunity to choose a school that best meets their needs. Thank you to Sen. (Lou Ann) Linehan for never giving up the fight for our kids or their families.”

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signs LB1402 into law on April 24, 2024. COURTESTY PHOTO

The Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) credited Sen. Linehan of Elkhorn, the bill’s sponsor, for building support for LB 1402 and other school-choice efforts during her eight-year tenure in the Legislature, which is ending because of term limits.

“Senator Linehan has changed the educational choice landscape of our state for generations to come,” said Tom Venzor, NCC executive director.

He thanked Linehan and all those who helped LB 1402 succeed, including citizens who reached out to their state senators. 

“Thanks to your advocacy, the leadership of Senator Lou Ann Linehan, and all the Senators who championed school choice over the last several years, thousands more of Nebraska students will be able to access an education that best fits their needs,” Venzor wrote to supporters.

LB 1402 replaces a law from last year’s legislative session, LB 753, which funded the private-school scholarships through tax credits for donations to approved scholarship-granting organizations.

That law, however, became the target of a referendum on the November ballot.

The new measure is intended to make the referendum moot because direct appropriations from the state can’t be repealed by referendum, according to state law.


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