Monday, February 23, 2004

Back from a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Today begins a weeklong series on private education in Nebraska. Cheers! -- S.


What's the deal with Nebraskans who have their children in private schools or homeschools?

They're paying mucho buckos for public education through property, sales and income taxes and assorted fees and fines. Yet they pay more money on top of that for private-school tuition, or give of their own time and money to conduct homeschool.

According to the State Department of Education, there's a whole bunch of them, too: 41,185 children are enrolled in the state's non-public education programs this school year. That's about 13 percent of the total, according to the 2003-04 membership reports published by the State Department of Education.

And it's more children than actually sit in the classrooms of the state's by-far largest school district, the Omaha Public Schools. OPS reported enrollment of 45,986 for the 2002-03 school year, but in its annual financial report to the state for that year, actual average daily attendance was only 39,657. So if the private-schoolers were lumped together, there'd be more of them than in the massive OPS.

So wuzzup wit dese private-schoolers? Why are all these people turning their backs on the state constitution's promise of a free education for their children, and the fair use of their own tax dollars and those of their fellow taxpayers?

The answer used to be pretty much one reason: religious education.

But increasingly today, it's in search of better quality, too.

Let's look, this week, at private education in Nebraska. It's big, it's growing . . . and it's doing exciting things for kids.

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