Proposal to fund scholarship granting organizations advances

April 9, 2024, 11 p.m. ·

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan speaks on LB1402 during legislative debate Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Brian Beach/Nebraska Public Media News)

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Senators advanced a proposal to give state funding to scholarship granting organizations in the Nebraska Legislature Tuesday evening.

Senator Lou Ann Linehan’s LB1402 would appropriate $10 million dollars each year to scholarship granting organizations through the state treasurer’s office, allowing low-income students to apply for grants that can be used at private schools.

Linehan said the grants would give low-income kids the opportunity to attend better schools outside of their district in the same way they have a choice to go to certain hospitals or grocery stores.

“We don't tell the parents where to go buy their groceries,” she said. “We don't say you can only go to Walmart, you could never go to Baker's. We don’t say that. So why is it the only thing that's not okay for low-income kids is their school choice?”

Linehan’s bill would also sunset legislation passed last year giving up to $25 million dollars of tax credits for donations to scholarship granting organizations.

The tax credit bill will be on the ballot for Nebraska voters this November after a referendum campaign received more than 117,000 signatures.

Sen. Jen Day accused Linehan’s legislation of potentially overriding the will of Nebraska voters in the upcoming referendum.

“I think we would be circumventing the process that is currently in place for the general public to have their say in a particular issue by passing a piece of legislation like this,” she said.

After four hours of discussion, a vote to end debate received 33 votes, the exact number needed to enable the legislature to vote on Linehan’s bill.

The bill then advanced to the next round of debate on a 31 to 12 vote, with 5 senators present but not voting.