Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Innovative Solution
To Put Nebraska On the Ed Map, Bigtime

Have you ever been to a pet store with a really big display of mice? They scurry around, busy, busy, busy. Some run on wheels that go nowhere. Some hide seeds. Some scamper through tubes. Some nibble. Some sleep. But basically, nothing happens, and the next day, they just do it all over again.

The more you watch the drama unfold over last legislative session’s evil twins, LB 126 and 1024, and frantic efforts by the educrats, superintendents and politicians to justify their own existence and think up even more ways to take control from families and spend our money, the more it reminds you of that.

All I can say is . . . rats!

And here we are, with Martin Luther King Day coming up. So THIS is what he lived and died for – to see poor kids and children of color denied the simple, inexpensive phonics and math instruction they need in the early grades so that they are literally doomed to fail? And all the powers that be are talking about is doing more of the same, only louder, slower, and at a higher cost? (LB 1024)

Meanwhile, a relatively small number of rural Nebraska kids are outdoing their city and town counterparts on the learning curve, and costing us maybe the price of one large pizza more than the big-district economies of scale can provide, and yet the powers that be insist on assassinating their schools and breaking their parents’ hearts just to amass power? (LB 126)

There’s one solution to both of these problems. It’s called “tuitioning.”

Taxpayers pay the private- or public-school tuition of students who, for whatever the reason, can’t get an effective education where they now live.

Tuitioning has been in Vermont state law for decades. More than 90 of Vermont's nearly 250 towns have no full K-12 system of their own. Instead they are "tuitioning' towns whose taxpayers pay to send some or all of their students to public or private schools, even beyond Vermont's borders. In many places, there are good public schools available, so the kids don’t need to use the tuitioning feature. But in rural areas where they have no choice, tuitioning is a godsend. It’s also a simple, effective way to bring competition to bear against mediocre or lousy schools, forcing them to shape up in order to compete for enrollment.

In Vermont, the tuition reimbursement amount can be up to the amount of the state average cost per pupil. In Nebraska, that’s about $8,000. Our daughter’s tuition at her excellent west Omaha Christian grade school is less than half that, $3,400. See? We’re giving up $8,000 worth of “free” educational services – saving Nebraska taxpayers that much – because we know that schooling is better in her private school. But we have enough dough; we have that choice. Many, if not most, Nebraska families do not.

Why shouldn’t Maddy’s tuition bill be paid by the state, though?

Why shouldn’t our daughter’s education be “worth” just as much as YOUR daughter’s?

Why shouldn’t an inner-city Omaha boy be able to go to any school he wants, public or private?

Why shouldn’t a homeschooled child receive tax support for education, if the parents need it and want it?

Why shouldn’t a ranch kid from the Sandhills get the same support from taxpayers to go to the school of his choice, especially if it’s three miles away instead of 30?

No brainer here, folks. If we offered “tuitioning” to every child in Nebraska right here, right now, including the homeschoolers, we would not only have the best, most exciting, most inclusive education system in the country – strike that, the world! – but we’d solve all of our problems in education, because the natural power of competition would finally be unleashed. The focus would finally be on the kids, and doing what it takes to get enrollment, and keep it, would give kids what they need – not what the educrats, superintendents and politicians need.

It’d be practically instantaneous, too – not a 30-year wait, like the Goals 2000 / No Child Left Behind mess.

Let’s do it! Come on! Let’s get enough state senators on board, and get this done this session. Otherwise, we’re just like those trapped mice, fighting over a few seeds and some stale cheese while the you-know-what piles up around our kids.

What are we? Men . . . or mice?


It’s puzzling that the Nebraska Department of Education didn’t immediately take action to reinstate the Class I country schools in the wake of the solid voter approval granted them in the November election. Voters overturned the Legislature’s no-good, very-bad LB 126, the forced consolidation bill. But apparently, it wasn’t enough to put things right.

Guess the educrats need a “goose” from their bosses, the lawmakers of the brand-new Unicameral. You and everyone you know should contact your state senator immediately in support of LB 234, which would put the Class I schools back in business. It was introduced today by State Sens. M.L. “Cap” Dierks of Ewing and Russ Karpisek of Wilber.

Read the straightforward, simple terms:


Voters need to contact their senators now, by email, letter and phone, to urge them to crack the whip on the educrats and any recalcitrant senators who still want Nebraska K-12 education forced into a Union of Socialized Soviet Schools. It’s long past time for them to wake up and smell the electoral java, and put those cute country grade schools, personnel, governance and all the rest right back where they belong.

Here’s a helpful list with online information and contacts:

The main page for researching what the Unicam is doing:

Keep on top of committee hearing schedule:

Find and read copies of the bills:

Read the daily legislative journal:

See the daily agenda:

Email your senator:


Find information about your senator:

Write or call your senator:



It’s always nice when a Nebraskan brings honor and glory to our state by accomplishing something on the national scene. It’s just the opposite when a prominent Nebraskan has a prominent national foot-in-mouth accident like the Nebraska State Education Association chieftain quoted below.

His remark was judged to be No. 1 in the “2006 Public Education Quotes of the Year” from the California-based Education Intelligence Agency,

GoBigEd covered the quote when it came out right before last November’s elections. A textbook case of propagandistic exaggeration, it was part of a campaign to dupe Nebraska voters into voting against a modest cap on increases in governmental spending.

Here are the quotes in countdown order, with the embarrassing Nebraska one last:

10) “We’re kind of building the airplane as it’s going down the track.” – NEA Secretary-Treasurer Lily Eskelsen, on NEA’s new performance-based budget. (July 1, NEA Representative Assembly)

9) “Most Americans have no idea how bad things really are. We are in a state of emergency. I’m blown away that this isn’t what is on every parent’s mind when it comes to elections – that people are not in the streets fighting for their kids.” – Oprah Winfrey, promoting her two-part special report, American Schools in Crisis, which aired in April.

8) “I’m not positive [competitive bidding] would be the best way.” – New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi, on why NYSUT had a $3 million endorsement deal with ING without offering other investment groups an opportunity to bid. (May 9 Buffalo News)

7) “I don’t know a business that would stay in business for very long if it lost a huge chunk of its customers but increased its salaries.” – Columbus (Ohio) Board of Education member Stephanie Groce, suggesting district salaries should be frozen until enrollment decline is stemmed. (May 17 Columbus Dispatch)

6) “You shouldn’t be angry about how much teachers get paid, but how little money most everyone else makes.” – Portland Oregonian columnist S. Renee Mitchell. (February 27 Portland Oregonian)

5) “All teachers are good.” – Debbie Te Whaiti, president of the Post-Primary Teachers Association in New Zealand, explaining her opposition to performance pay. (September 4 The Press of Christchurch)

4) “From my perspective, we should be about propaganda, we shouldn’t be about journalism.” – a staffer at AFT national headquarters, describing his notion of what the union’s publications should be. (August 7 EIA Communiqué)

3) “A man without vision might as well be blind.” – a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly, debating NBI 14, which dealt with the state of art and music education in America’s public schools. (July 3, NEA Representative Assembly)

2) “It’s b---s---, It’s like me saying, ‘Duffy’s a pig f---er.’ Have I seen him f--- a pig? Do I have photos? No. So I can’t say it. He should check these things out before he says them.” – Steve Barr, CEO and founder of Green Dot charter schools, referring to United Teachers Los Angeles President A. J. Duffy. (December 6 LA Weekly)

1) “The struggle in which we are engaged is as vital to our future today as was the outcome of the Civil War to our nation in 1860 (sic). The goal of these locusts is to impose their will on state after state until they have completely demolished government as we know it. There is a time for every generation to rise to the call – when the very existence of our nation, our state, our values, our culture and our public schools are threatened with extinction.” – Nebraska State Education Association Executive Director Jim Griess on Initiative 423, a ballot measure that would have limited state government spending to previous years’ amounts, with allowed increases for inflation and population growth. (October 2006 The NSEA Voice)


Here’s an article about a longtime federal educrat who finally understands that multi-billion dollar federal education programs are doomed to fail. Why? Because the feds shouldn’t be involved in education, as our Constitution already sets out. It just ain’t American. Duhhhh:


The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org/research/education) is calling for a return to the original intent of No Child Left Behind, in which President Bush said that instead of letting federal educrats call the shots in our nation’s schools, it would be smarter to block-grant federal aid to states and let the local yokels decide how to spend it.

As long as there was solid accountability to the public for how well the schools were doing in a given state, that kind of approach seemed to be smarter and more flexible in meeting unique local needs of each state.

The Heritage Foundation reports that federal education spending still covers only 8.5% of the total tab. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the foundation reported, “NCLB costs state and local communities an additional 6,688,814 hours, or $140 million, to fill out paperwork and ensure compliance. Thousands of state and local workers across the country spend their days on this task, instead of teaching students or otherwise contributing to their education.”

Wouldn’t it be loverly if our federal representatives “got it,” too, and started fighting for the charter state option – or, better yet, to abolish the U.S. Department of Education altogether?

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