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The shortage of special education teachers within the Omaha Public School system came to a head last Friday, the 8th, as State Senators in the education committee questioned three OPS officials about the situation. This issue resurfaced just before the new OPS year started and OPS informed about 140 parents of special education students that their north Omaha schools would not have a special education teacher. The parents would have to find a different school if they wanted special education learning for their children or opt out of the special education program. Bussing to and from this new school would be provided by OPS, the parents were promised, and this also recently became an issue because some students not receiving the promised bussing.
OPS official Charles Wakefield said, “I don’t think there’s an easy answer,” concerning the staffing of special education staffers. This has been an issue for years with OPS and as the Omaha World Herald stated, it’s gotten worse since the pandemic. What was more troubling is that there were not any solutions offered and this was evident as several times Senators seemed to be frustrated at the answers they were given. At one point, north Omaha Senator Justin Wayne, seemingly exasperated asked, “What are we doing?” There was only silence from the OPS officials.
Other Senators were confused by conflicting numbers concerning the teacher shortage and the lack of responsiveness and transparency. At one point Senator Danielle Conrad of Lincoln asked, “Why can’t you return an email?” Senator Wayne pointed out that OPS had a surplus emergency fund of over 150 million dollars which could be used. Senator Conrad asked, “Is this an emergency” and Spencer Head, the President of the Omaha School Board, said, “Yep.” Senator Murman from Glenvil, the Chairman of the Education Committee, intimated that their solution of moving special education students to different schools didn’t seem like the best most well thought out solution.
Kelsey Escobar testified about the bussing problem her special needs son had at the first week of school. OPS has told her that they would provide bussing to and from the new school her son was having to go to now since her school did not have a special education teacher for him. They picked him up in the morning but several times they didn’t pick him up after school and she wasn’t notified till 4:30-5:00 o’clock, an hour or so after school was out. This situation upset her son and Escobar said, “It was very stressful for me.” She said that the bussing issue has since been fixed but, “I always have my phone next to me just in case the school tells me, ‘Hey, the bus is not coming today.”
It is apparent that OPS has serious issues concerning shortages of teachers and bus drivers. These are not new issues for OPS, yet there doesn’t seem to be urgency in fixing these issues, they continue year after year. There also seems to be confusion and a lack of transparency in how these issues are being addressed by OPS. The Legislature has provided many incentives for hiring new teachers and even more for special education teachers but it is apparent that more must be done so staffing issues like we see at OPS can be fixed and our most vulnerable children provided the best education possible.
About 100 years ago a leading progressive made this comment about what they believed the goal of a university education should be, their response, “to make a son as unlike their fathers as possible.” This idea has not been confined to higher learning however. This, thankfully, has not been the belief of the vast majority of teachers and administrators in the history of Nebraska education either, and it is crucial that we make sure to guard against this pernicious idea. In Nebraska, we value the role of parents in the education of their children, every step of the way.
On July 31st I held a hearing at the Capitol to get a better picture of the direction of public education in Nebraska in order to make sure we continue to have an education system aligned with the values of Nebraska parents. There were presenters at the hearing representing many different policy approaches. Many of my constituents and others across Nebraska have raised concerns over some things they notice changing in Nebraska schools. With that in mind we began some interim studies relating especially to how we can best advance parental, teacher and students’ rights in our ever-changing society.
We must ensure transparency for parents, concerning their children’s curriculum, in this new, digital age. It was 1994 when the last parental rights statute was passed and much has changed since that day. Critical Race Theory (CRT), has been passed down to our schools from higher levels of academia. It sees reality through the prism of race and even in Nebraska there are reports of students made to feel ashamed of their race/ethnicity, for things they have not done. This is one way CRT (often changed to Culturally Relevant Teaching, since Critical Race Theory has negative connotations), is filtered down to our children. Parents must be able to access curriculum in a timely matter, and/or visit a classroom, so they can see if things like this are being taught in their school. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” CRT is a direct, biased attack on Dr. King’s quote.
While a critical lens has exposed many of the biases of CRT, we have a lot of evidence that some folks are channeling the ideas of CRT into Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) practices. SEL, as originally imagined, may be a useful tool for our teachers and administrators. We must make sure it stays a useful tool if it is continued to be used in our public schools.
Recently it has been found that some curriculum is even teaching our impressionable children to “Question Objective Reality” and “let their teacher’s instructions guide them” and “to question their own (the children) internal beliefs and associations.” Most of us probably see that this is wrong and even destructive and it brings us back to where we started, with the early 20th century progressive educator who wanted to “make a son as unlike their father as possible.”
In Nebraska we value education and it is reflected in national studies which show us among the top third of states in education generally. Our model does not seek to diminish the parental role in education but to advance and enhance it. We must be diligent to protect parents’ rights which will protect students and teachers as well.
We have a good public education system in Nebraska: it is usually one of the top twenty systems in the nation, yet there is always room for improvement. It would be great if we could once again be a top 5 school system in the nation, and that is what we must strive to achieve.
One thing we’ve done in the last session is give classroom control back to the teacher. Legislative Bill 705 was passed and one of its provisions allows teachers who’ve been properly trained to remove disruptive children. Classrooms in some districts were becoming difficult places for education to flourish as Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques were being used by teachers instead of other, more effective ways, to deal with disruptive students. Even more, what is called SEL today isn’t just to help student/classroom behavior, and emotional well-being. We believe that racial/gender/comprehensive sex education propaganda (CRT) is being shoe horned into SEL. There are videos of administrators suggesting this. Public school students have been badgered and shamed for their race for no reason. This is wrong.
We ARE NOT systematically racist in this nation and that is obvious and our children should not be told otherwise. Yes, there are still instances of racism, all around and in every ethnic community, but it is not systematic. Our schools have always taught about our nation’s sins of the past yet it was done acknowledging that we are and have been a great, yet flawed nation. This is not how some modern curriculum presents our history. As an example, while those with a CRT mindset continue to impugn our nation there are millions of African slaves on the African continent to this day. All you can hear is crickets when you ask them about this modern atrocity. We can and have learned from the sins of our past and we will not white-wash our history, but we will not do this in a condemnatory way. We will continue to learn from our past sins and still teach our students that our country has been built on liberty.
Children’s confusion concerning their gender is not something our schools should be invested in as Comprehensive Sex Education is not a part of our education standards in Nebraska. Our children need to be taught the basics. Even as Nebraska scores well nationally in overall education, our nation continues to plummet internationally as other nations do not get bogged down in CRT type propaganda. Our education system should not be sowing gender confusion on our impressionable children.
The continued misinformation about the Opportunity Scholarship Act is unfortunate. No money for public schools has been cut or will be cut. The money allocated for this scholarship is through tax credits. This money is never a part of our state education funding and the last session increased education spending over 300 million dollars with a new 1-billion-dollar fund created for future needs. The future of public education in Nebraska is financially stable.
What is truly a step forward is that now Nebraska is not behind every other state except one when it comes to educational liberty and opportunity! This scholarship allows parents and children to choose a school best suited to their needs. This includes schools that can help children with special needs. This happens today when special needs children are able to go to a school which is able to best deal with their issue. Now this will be available to far more children whose parents would not normally be able to pay for private schooling. This will greatly help many minority families. Educational liberty should not be a controversial idea, Nebraska has been in the dark ages for far too long when it comes to academic freedom. Now our parents and students can proclaim with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We are free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
We do need to do our best to make sure our children do not have easy access to pornography. Many Americans have fallen into a lifelong addiction to porn just through finding some readily available porn as a young child and this can scar their relationships for life. Interestingly, when parents read some of the porn provided in the schools at school board meetings, they are told to stop because of its lascivious nature, yet nothing is done about the accessibility of the book to the children. Only the ears of the school board are protected, not our children. We are still studying what some common-sense answers would be to this issue. We can all agree that if something is objectionable to a school board it is probably objectionable to a young student and their parents.
In summary, we must strive to make our schools even better and we can best do that through: providing educational/academic liberty, keeping American ideals central, and teaching our children the fundamentals, free from leftist indoctrination. The voices of the past want to sow shame and confusion and keep parents on the outside. I have confidence in the vast majority of parents and their teachers and I want to make sure our schools are simply places emphasize ABC’s/1,2,3’s of education.
Every parent and child in Nebraska should have the right to pick a school they believe best suits their unique situation. The Opportunity Scholarships Act passed this last session in the Legislature provides this much needed choice for Nebraska’s children. This is long overdue in Nebraska as 48 states provide this choice for their parents and children.
Yet just as Nebraska is progressing forward with the times, a well-funded, out of state petition group has organized paid petitioners to seek the repeal of this bill and send us backwards. They claim that this bill will drain revenue from public education even as this session approved 305 million dollars in extra funding for our public schools. A one-billion-dollar Education Future Fund was also created in order to deal with any future funding issues. You can clearly see that the Legislature carefully planned for public education funding and increased it!
In Nebraska we love our public schools and our schools, teachers and students are always on the honor roll when academic performance is considered. We can continue this great tradition AND move forward, allowing parents and the children to seek the education they believe is best tailored to them. In a liberty loving nation like the United States this should not be controversial. By declining to sign you will affirm the progress that Nebraska is making in our children’s education.
However, even as the vast majority of our schools and school districts perform at a high level, sometimes our children can fall between the cracks or a school or school district can under perform. The Opportunity Scholarships Act allows parents and the children the choice to find another school; public or private. Priority is given to low-income families and this scholarship will cover all or most of their tuition at the school of their choice and allow them the academic freedom which should be assumed in this nation.
The petition drive is a solution looking for a problem. The Opportunity Scholarship Act is the solution parents and children have been seeking concerning freedom in K-12 education. So, this is what was done in the last Legislative Session, 1) Nebraska was brought up to date in education by implementing a foundational American concept, academic choice and freedom for parents and children and, 2) school funding was increased for the foreseeable future. For these reasons we respectfully ask you to, “Decline to sign”!
Lincoln, NE—In preparation for the Nebraska Education Committee’s Hearing on Social Emotional Learning (LR 149), the Nebraska Department of Education’s Launch NE website and use of ESSER funding (LR 148), and Interim Study on LB 374 (LR 147), Chairman Murman released the following statement:
“In District 38 and across Nebraska, parents have long been concerned about content in schools and the tools they have to achieve transparency in the classroom. I look forward to asking questions of all the invited testifiers, evaluating existing transparency mechanisms, and continuing towards our goal of finding consensus to improving Nebraska schools with parents, teachers, and administrators alike.”
July 31st, 2023
Education Committee Hearing
Glenvil, NE—State Senator Dave Murman, representing Legislative District 38, appeared on KETV 7 News Omaha on Thursday to celebrate the historic investments in Nebraska public schools made through a joint effort by Governor Pillen and the legislature.
As part of this investment, Senator Murman is releasing figures from the Governor’s office detailing the increase in state aid to every school in Legislative District 38. The estimates represent the combined increase in foundation aid and special education reimbursement funds for Fiscal Years 2023-24 through 2025-26. Every school is guaranteed at least $1,500 in state aid per student in Nebraska.
On Thursday, Murman reiterated his belief that this influx of new state aid will empower school districts to lower their property tax levies, stating “that increase [in state aid] should be refunded back to the property taxpayer.”
Estimated Combined Increase in State Aid to Public Schools FY23/24 – FY25/26:
Adams Central: $6,052,409
Blue Hill: $1,637,167
Red Cloud: $1,528,662
Southern Valley: $2,631,015
South Central: $4,930,266
Estimates for all Nebraska school districts can be found here.
LINCOLN—Nebraska Senator Dave Murman and his colleagues on the Education Committee celebrated the advancement of LB 705 and the encompassed bills (see below) to the Governor’s desk.
Senator Murman and his colleagues released the following statements:
Said Senator Murman: “This package is the culmination of hours of hard work by all committee members to benefit students and advance education in Nebraska. From pre-kindergarten to college, or whether you attend public, private or homeschool, this bill makes significant, broad-sweeping improvements. My goal was to pass legislation that keeps our schools safe, to provide funding for necessary school functions, to recruit teachers to the classroom, and to provide for more parental involvement in schools. LB705 meets the moment for our students, our educators, and our schools, and I was privileged to lead such an experienced and well-intentioned committee through this process.”
Said Senator Conrad: “This series of bills was carefully and conscientiously crafted together under the leadership of Senator Murman and others on the Education Committee. It is a demonstration of what good policy work this truly unique legislature can do when people set politics and differences aside, and do what’s best for the children of this State.”
Said Senator Linehan: “The Education Package is designed to help all students in Nebraska. Through this package, we will be helping all schools with at least 80% of their special education funding, recruiting and retaining teachers, and opening new pathways for people to enter the teaching profession. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Murman and Governor Pillen, the Education Committee has put together a comprehensive package that will positively impact the lives of our students. I also thank my fellow committee members for putting the education of Nebraska students first– and for recognizing that good education is key to the future of our great state.”
Said Senator Walz: “”LB705 is an important piece of legislation that continues the committee’s hard work to support our education community for school for students, staff and parents. I was proud to contribute pieces to this legislation like teacher recruitment and providing important school safety measures.”
Said Senator Briese: “I am excited about the reforms and policy improvements contained in LB 705, and grateful for the hard work of my fellow senators and our staff, as well as input from stakeholders and the general public which have come together to make this important legislation a success.”
Education Omnibus Bill
* = Committee priority
** = Senator priority
*** = Speaker priority
Today, Senator Dave Murman released a brief statement regarding Senator Joni Albrecht’s Nebraska Heartbeat Act:
“I was proud to stand alongside Sen. Joni Albrecht and several other pro-life colleagues to announce our Heartbeat Protection legislation and companion legislation to support pro-life health centers around Nebraska.
Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 38th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Dave Murman
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