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Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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Weekly News–April 19, 2024
April 25th, 2024

As we ended session on April 18th, we heard from Governor Pillen and Speaker Arch. Governor Pillen commended us on the work we had accomplished, but was also disappointed that we didn’t get Property Tax Relief across the finish line. He did tell us he would be calling as many special sessions as it would take in order to get the people’s work done. The people of Nebraska have spoken and the number one concern is lowering property taxes. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Pillen to reduce the property tax burden in our state. 

Speaker Arch also commended us on the work we were able to get done in 60 days. There were 597 bills introduced this session and over 370 were sent to Governor Pillen’s desk including Appropriation bills.

Fifteen of us are leaving at the end of this year as we are either term limited or not returning for one reason or another. Each one of us was able to give a farewell speech. I am grateful to my constituents for electing me to serve them for eight years. Again, I can’t say enough what an honor it has been to serve District 17.

On Saturday, April 20th, I attended the Dakota City Appreciation Dinner. This dinner honored city employees as well as firefighters and first responders. I was pleasantly surprised and honored when I received an award for my “continued support and dedication to First Responders in the State of Nebraska”. I have always appreciated the work that First Responders and Volunteer Firefighters bring to our district. Your willingness to respond to an emergency and assist the community at the sound of your pager is a testimony to your service and dedication to each community. It has been an honor to continue to support legislation that helps firefighters and first responders in the state of Nebraska.

Bill Update

LB1402, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan from Elkhorn, passed on Final Reading on Thursday, April 18th.This bill would appropriate $10 million dollars in general funds in fiscal year 2024-2025 to the state treasurer to provide grants to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs), who then would use the funds to provide scholarships to eligible students to pay costs associated with attending a K-12 qualified school. Section 1(2)(c) of LB1402 states that a qualified school means any nongovernmental, privately operated elementary or secondary school located in this state that (i) is operated not for profit, (ii) complies with the antidiscrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. 1981, as such section existed on January 1, 2024, (iii) complies with all health and life safety laws or codes that apply to privately operated schools, and (iv) fulfills the applicable accreditation or approval requirements established by the State Board of Education pursuant to section 79-318. If the total amount of grants awarded in any fiscal year exceeds 90% of the appropriation to the state treasurer for that fiscal year the appropriation for the following fiscal year would increase by 25%, not to exceed a maximum appropriation of $100 million. Senator Linehan said she offered the bill as a replacement for the Opportunity Scholarships Act (LB753), which was passed by the Legislature last year. The state treasurer, rather than outside SGOs, would be responsible for overseeing the program and the treasurer could contract with an outside entity to administer it. The amendment would repeal LB753. Senator Linehan said 1,000 students have applied for scholarships under the existing program, and about 2,500 students have expressed interest.(Portions taken from “Private school scholarship program clears first round”. Unicameral Update. 10 April, 2024. Nebraska will become the 50th state to have school choice. That makes us the very last state to offer this option to the citizens of Nebraska!

Many arguments have been made against LB1402. Here are the facts about those arguments.

  • Constitutionality–The Nebraska Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the state constitution permits direct aid to students and also allows an incidental or indirect benefit to a school. In Lenstrom v. Thone (1981), the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a nearly identical scholarship program at the post-secondary level, which is more easily recognizable today as the Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG) program. In the Lenstrom case and in the same way NOG functions today, these programs provide appropriations for scholarships to students in financial need to attend a postsecondary school of their choice, including private religious universities and colleges. The “direct beneficiary” of a student aid program is the student, not the school. Almost every court, including the U. S. Supreme Court, has found that the beneficiaries of student aid programs are students, not schools.
  • No Accountability–All school choice programs have some level of administrative and financial accountability and most programs have academic accountability. Private schools in every state must comply with health and safety regulations as well as antidiscrimination laws. Already in Nebraska, nonpublic schools must comply with the Department of Education’s Approval (Rule 14) and Accreditation (Rule 10) standards. As such, private schools have testing standards, health and safety standards, financial accountability standards, among other standards, And private schools are accountable to those who matter the most:  parents.
  • Special Needs Students–According to RealClear Education, over 137,000 special education students report using choice programs nationally (over 16% of all students exercising choice). Clearly private schools are meeting the needs of a substantial number of students with special needs and doing so without the funding mechanisms accessible to public schools. Private schools are increasingly developing funding and programming to accept more children with special needs, as well as creating schools specifically tailored to serving certain populations of students with special needs. As studies show, 15%-16% of students in public schools have special needs, while 12%-13% of students in private schools have special needs.

Just a reminder that the Legislature passed LB583 which provided $1,500 to each student in public schools and expanded special education funding to 80%. We also established the Education Future Fund, championed by Senator Robert Clements, which provided an initial investment of $1 billion with an additional $250 million each year after. The annual investment to public school districts will exceed $300 million per year beyond what they receive through the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act. (Strimple, Laura. Press Release. “Gov. Pillen Highlights Public Education Funding at Back to School News Conference”. 27 July, 2023. We do support public schools, but also realize that we need to support all children in Nebraska where they are.

If we do nothing more this year and we don’t come back for a special session, we will have moved public school funding up to 28th in the nation from 49th. If we come back for a special session and address property taxes, we can move up to 8th in the nation for public school funding if we do what we set out to do for funding public schools in Nebraska.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room 1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2716
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