Nebraska Politics

School Choice = Billionaire Welfare

Seeing Red has discussed school privatization and the doublespeak about “choice” that shrouds its true intent and purpose previously.  To put it plainly, couched in an argument of “choice” (see any irony here?) school privatization proponents argue that basically any choice a parent may have for their child’s education should be funded by taxpayer dollars (see disingenuous arguments here).

Do you want your kid to learn Koine Greek?  Well, because parental choice is sacrosanct, that means public schools should provide this education at taxpayer expense for your child in public schools.  This is the ludicrous conclusion of the “school choice” argument.  But this is not their goal, they don’t want all choices sacrosanct.  No, this doublespeak is just a good cover for the true intent, which is to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize religious education.  This is a clear violation of constitutionally-guaranteed separation between church and state — the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — but apparently so-called conservatives only seem to care about the Second Amendment.  This is why much of the school “choice” movement nationally and in Nebraska is mostly driven by the Catholic Church (see here and here and the Nebraska school choice coalition member orgs here).

Today, in a historic moment driven by Ricketts’s puppets in the unicameral, our state legislature takes another step closer to school privatization in Nebraska as they debate LB295 on the floor.

LB295 is a voucher proposal that would literally result in the mega wealthy getting richer at the expense of the taxpayer and especially public schools.  LB295 is a bill that provides income tax credits for donating to private and parochial school scholarships. The original bill (written by ALEC and proposed in state legislatures all over the US) provides $1 of tax state credit per $1 spent on “scholarships” for low-income students to attend private schools, a state tax benefit almost unprecedented in its generosity, and could cost the state more than $10 million in tax revenue yearly in an already-pilfered state budget.  Not only that, but with Trump’s new wealth redistribution bill this “donation” would turn a profit for wealthy donors who could turn around and claim a federal tax exemption on their donation.  According to experts, because we have a 37-percent tax bracket for the wealthy, people like Joe Ricketts would have a return of $137 million for every $1 million invested.  This is funded at the expense of tax payers which results in underfunded schools and other state entities, which means it causes real harm to the elderly, disabled, and sick, who rely on a social safety for survival.

For anyone paying attention, these charitable donations are but one way the mega wealthy get away with not paying taxes.  Yes, LB295 are just one of many Koch funded and proliferated state bills aimed at privatizing all things in America and redistributing more wealth to the top 1%.

The chances of LB295 passing are slim thanks to Nebraska’s love of public schools and the hard work of advocates to fight school privatization (see opposition groups Stand for Schools and Not in Nebraska).  Its trouble even passing through the education committee is evident in all the amendments proposed and doubts expressed by conservative state Senators.   But the fact that it made it to a floor vote is a major victory for Ricketts and the Archdiocese.  For years, this has been their long game, and they have the momentum.  Ricketts and Groene founded the Platte Institute together in 2007, long before either was elected to public office.  The Platte Institute covers as a research institute, but has been labeled a “stink tank” instead of a think tank because it actually generates propaganda to support Ricketts’s pet projects.  It is no coincidence that Groene, who has no training in education and has shown outright disdain for public schools, teachers and students, was part of a Ricketts engineered rookie leadership coup in 2017 and is now the head of the Education Committee.  They have been targeting public schools for a long time, and their hard work has come to fruition.  Although LB295 is unlikely to pass, expect similar bills and much worse during the next legislative session.  Our governor wants to give his dad and his buddies a hefty tax break.