Friday, May 07, 2004


A typical schoolhouse in Nebraska may employ teachers from several states, use textbooks published in Malaysia, stock pencils from South American wood, serve vegetables grown in Mexico, plug in computers assembled in Indonesia. . . .

You get the idea. Insiders are in the minority when it comes to running and equipping schools these days. Schools are by far the biggest recipients and users of taxpayer dollars in Nebraska, but no one would seriously entertain the idea that those dollars should be received only from, or paid only to, resident Nebraskans.

It would be impossible to have completely local influences only in curriculum, instruction, staffing, operations or any other facet of public education.

And that goes quadruple for politics. Local school boards have gradually lost almost all of their power over the past generation or two. Instead, state and national political and professional organizations have taken over much of the shaping of what goes on in schools.

The key one is the National Education Association. The national teachers’ union is consistently among the top political campaign contributors in Nebraska, if not THE top. It has given boatloads of money to local, regional and statewide candidates for political positions that greatly influence public education, particularly the Unicameral and the State Board of Education.

That’s why it’s almost sad that a big brouhaha has erupted over ‘’outside influences’’ in a Nebraska congressional race. It has even been called ‘’disgusting’’ that this candidate accepted a $27,000 donation from a group based in Washington, D.C., that’s against increased taxation and government spending.

The group is the Club for Growth, and the candidate is Greg Ruehle of Garland, Neb., a candidate to replace Rep. Doug Bereuter in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District.

Three things come to mind:

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the NEA has spent on Nebraska political races. So is the REAL problem that this guy wants to hold the line on spending, and his competitors want to keep the trough a-flowin’ over?

2. We need to expose the outside influences that are in force in our government schools in order to gain some perspective in matters like this. Most of them are OK. Some may not be. Let’s just get things out on the table so everybody can see how things work. That means school boards and taxpayers should be demanding to know sources of funding, curriculum, programs, textbooks and so on and so forth, to determine whether the influence is “undue” or not.

3. People are getting really sick of the ‘’same old, same old’’ political hypocrisy in matters such as the Ruehle situation. It is the hypocrisy of the big shots that has demonstrably led to the out-of-control influence peddling in schools. When people can get away with hypocrisy, quality takes a nosedive. Is that happening in our schools? Most people would say so.

Here’s an op-ed on this from someone we all should listen to. No matter what side of the political fence you’re feeding in, he makes some excellent points.


A Guest Opinion

By Alan Jacobsen
Lincoln businessman and past Democratic Congressional Candidate


The constituents of the First District of Nebraska have an opportunity that has not been available to them for more than a quarter of a century. Congressman Doug Bereuter announced that he would not seek re-election after serving 26 years in Congress. His announcement also came with an endorsement for his hand picked successor.

Apparently he was not watching the turn of events for the past four years of Nebraska football. One of the all time greatest coaches in college football tried to name his successor. It lasted for less than two terms of Congress. That was not a reflection on his successor; it was an indication of the direction college football is going.

The Republicans stand the most to lose in this election. The old guard is divided between Curt Bromm, the Bereuter self-appointed successor, and Jeff Fortenberry. There is evidence to believe that if Bromm wins the primary the Republicans are giving the race to the Democrats.

How quickly the elephant forgets the past. Remember the gubernatorial primary of 1994. Ralph Noble and I (Alan Jacobsen) split the conservative vote and gave the race to Gene Spence. The general election ended abruptly when Spence was unable to unite the old guard and, well, the rest is history. Ben Nelson swept the race and not only served his second term as governor but eventually became and is the current United States Senator from Nebraska.

The Republicans can make a calculated change in the First District by voting for Greg Ruehle. He is plain spoken, has some Washington experience, is a rancher, supports traditional values and is not beholding to the old guard of the GOP party machine. His agriculture and business experience make him a fresh voice for the First District.

It is unfortunate that Congressman Bereuter and Curt Bromm accused Greg Ruehle of being influenced by outside money. Congressman Bereuter has done a good job for the First District but it has become painfully obvious that he helped build his own retirement nest with outside international influence.

In addition to being the second highest ranking member of the coveted House International Relations Committee, since 1995, he has served on the Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific, leading the committee as chairman for six years. He has been a member of the House Financial Services Committee for 23 years and has served on its Multilateral Development Bank Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the Asian Development Bank

To be brutally honest, the First District needs to understand that our current congressman is not moving home to Nebraska to be the president of the University. He is moving to San Francisco to become the head of an organization called The Asia Foundation. He was selected because of his past 26 years in Congress and the knowledge and influence that he has attained through the Committees he was on.

It is difficult in light of this revelation that Mr. Bereuter or Mr. Bromm would enter such controversial waters. To suggest that national business interests are infecting Nebraskans in the first District and ignore the international influence that we have been subjected to for 26 years is more than a little difficult to comprehend. The accusation from Bromm that Nebraskan‚s in the First District are being influenced by outside money loses all credibility in light of this blatant hypocrisy.

The Democrats on the other hand have a similar opportunity to select a candidate that is not a typical Democrat. He is pro-life, supports the second amendment and supports a form of the free trade agreement called Fair Trade. He has not been quick to bash the Republican President to garner Democratic support but asked thoughtful questions about curbing terrorism, U.S. military exit plans for Iraq and Afghanistan and balances his platform with an emphasis on small business economic development.

Hopefully the First District will seize the opportunity and not have to wait for four years like our athletic program to discover that people want to see action and are not satisfied with mediocrity in football or politics. The opportunity before the First District is better than term limits. They can vote for two non-traditional party candidates in Ruehle and Conneally.

The benefits would be exciting and immediate. It would be the people’s race instead of a party race. Ideas would be debated instead of sterile party politic rhetoric exchanges. People would be volunteering for one or the other instead of yawning and swatting flies talking about which party was going to win and begin talking about which leader was going to win. Hopefully the First District will see the opportunity and advance Ruehle and Conneally to the General Election.

For this to happen we must all vote in the Primary on May 11th.

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