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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th 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. Steve Erdman
Liberty is worth fighting and dying for. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” In 2003 Congress used this quotation as the foundation for the Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act, an Act which was written to preserve our civil liberties but which never became law. Because America is still the home of the brave, protecting our liberties remains an essential American principle worthy of risking both life and treasure.
Those who participated in the Boston Tea Party understood full well that they were risking their lives in order to protest taxation without representation in the British Parliament. Rather than being guided by fear, they allowed themselves to be guided by the principle of liberty. Their actions became the precursor to war against the most powerful nation on earth at the time. Nevertheless, they believed the principle that no one should ever be taxed without having some kind of representation was worth fighting for and even dying for. Even after the American Revolutionary War, our founding fathers had no idea if the free economy they fought for would even survive. Their economy not only survived, but it gave rise to the greatest nation the earth has ever known.
Unfortunately, today far too many Americans are motivated by fear rather than by principle. Working as a Nebraska State Senator I have seen this all too often. Instead of fighting for what is right, good or fair, far too many Americans today are driven by fear, and such fear infringes upon our liberties.
Recently I have been touring Nebraska and promoting the consumption tax at town hall meetings. One of the questions I almost always get at these town hall meetings has to do with potential revenue shortfalls for the State of Nebraska should the consumption tax ever become law. Skeptics worry that making drastic changes to our tax code might result in the State not getting enough money to pay its bills. While this is a legitimate question to ask, Nebraskans can no longer afford to let these kinds of fears motivate us.
Nebraskans now find themselves in the same predicament that Californians found themselves in back in the 1970’s when property taxes were out of control and people were losing their homes. In the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, California voters took matters into their own hands and passed Proposition 13 on June 6, 1978. Proposition 13 capped property taxes at 2 percent of a home’s value in 1976 and reduced the property tax burden by 57 percent, according to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association. When a home sells in California today, the property gets reassessed at 1 percent of the new market value with a 2 percent yearly cap placed on the new assessment. As a direct result of Proposition 13, California’s economy absolutely exploded! In the years following Proposition 13 California led the nation in personal income growth, employment growth, and real estate appreciation.
If we were able to climb into a Delorean-style time machine and travel back to California to the days leading up to June 6, 1978, you would not have believed that California’s economy would have taken off and grown so rapidly in the way that it did. The messages plastered on billboards, heard over the radio waves, and watched on television sets were mostly negative messages of doom and gloom for the State of California if voters dared to actually pass Proposition 13. Nearly every state agency predicted that the sky would fall in California. In fact, the school teachers were so upset after Proposition 13 passed that they took the playground balls away from their students and blamed it on the parents for voting for Proposition 13.
Contrary to these nay-sayers, I want you to know that the Beacon Hill Institute has completed the most comprehensive dynamic study of its kind for the consumption tax in Nebraska, and that study shows that we can implement a consumption tax in Nebraska and be revenue neutral. In other words, we would get all the revenue we need to run the State through my bill for the consumption tax. Moreover, we could do it without collecting a single dime of property taxes, personal and corporate income taxes, sales taxes, and inheritance taxes. And, if we do this, Nebraska’s economy will absolutely explode!
On August 9th President Joe Biden went before the camera and blamed 80 million unvaccinated Americans for the persistent spreading of the coronavirus and mandated that all federal employees, save the U.S. Postal Service, and all employers with more than 100 employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get weekly virus tests. Biden insisted that “This is not about freedom or personal choice; it’s about protecting yourself and those around you…” I disagree.
Biden’s vaccine mandate is unconstitutional. President Biden swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution when he took office. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it extend power to the executive branch of the federal government to mandate what a person must put into his or her own body, and the 10th Amendment grants over to the states those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1990 in the case of Washington v. Harper that “the forcible injection of medication into a nonconsenting person’s body represents a substantial interference with that person’s liberty.” So, this really is about personal liberty after all.
Biden’s mandate also violates federal law. In sinister fashion, the Biden administration tried to get around the high court’s 1990 ruling by forcing the Department of Labor to impose his new rule through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If businesses require vaccination of their employees or testing once per week, then nobody is forcing an injection upon a non-consenting person, right? Well, not so fast. The mere fact that the new rule only applies to businesses with more than 100 employees makes Biden’s new rule arbitrary. Such an arbitrary or capricious standard means that Biden’s new rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act. Under this Act a rule is invalid if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” Because there is no necessary line of distinction between a business with 99 employees and one with 100 employees, Biden’s new rule constitutes an arbitrary violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
Biden’s vaccine mandate is bad for business. Why would any business owner want to let go of good employees when help is so hard to find these days, especially when they know that there is no one waiting on the sidelines to replace them? Biden’s mandate comes one month before the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season. While employers are looking to hire more holiday help, the federal government is now mandating that these same employers downsize their companies, and that makes the Biden mandate very bad for business.
Biden’s vaccine mandate is also bad for government. Consider what would happen if all 80 million unvaccinated people decided to wait until they got fired or let go by their employers instead of quitting their jobs. This would result in 80 million people suddenly filing for unemployment benefits! In order to help you see this, consider what happened in Chicago last month when 73 school bus drivers suddenly resigned due to the city’s new vaccine mandate. The mayor and school administrators found themselves frantically talking to Uber and Lyft about transporting 2,100 students to school, including 990 special education students. Because of their contracts, the Chicago Public Schools must now pay families $1,000 upfront and $500 per month to drive their own students to school.
Biden’s vaccine mandate also ignores science. Some 14 studies have now been completed showing how natural immunity is better at preventing COVID-19 than the vaccines. Moreover, Biden continues to ignore the weakness of the vaccines. For example, 40 percent of coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom last month came from people who had already received at least one shot of the vaccine, and Yale University epidemiologist Harvey Risch has stated publicly and for the record that “the majority of those infected become so after being vaccinated.” According Risch, 60 percent of cases in America come from people who have already been vaccinated.
President Joe Biden is now threatening to run over any governor who stands in his way. Gov. Ricketts has opposed Biden’s vaccine mandate and he needs some help. For this reason, I called Gov. Ricketts last Friday and urged him to call the State Legislature back into a special session just to deal with this problem. We especially need to protect those small businesses with fewer than 100 employees in Nebraska. No one in Nebraska should ever have to lose his or her job or be compelled to get a vaccination they do not want in order to feed their family and pay their bills. Biden’s vaccine mandate constitutes a declaration of war against personal liberty, and so the State Legislature is now compelled to act.
In case you haven’t heard the news, the Nebraska State Board of Education voted 5-1 on Friday to indefinitely postpone development of their new health education standards. Voting in favor of the proposal to halt the process were board members Robin Stevens, Lisa Fricke, Patti Gubbels, Maureen Nickels and Patsy Koch Johns. Voting against the proposal was Jacquelyn Morrison. Deborah Neary abstained from the vote and Patricia Timm was absent from the meeting.
This represents a huge victory for the people of Nebraska. Therefore, I would like to congratulate and thank every Nebraskan who weighed in on this issue. Many people testified in person at the public hearings and even more wrote letters, made phone calls, and sent emails to the Education Commissioner and to the members of the State Board of Education. Your voice has made a big difference.
I also want to thank the members of our local school boards for adopting resolutions against these new health education standards. I commend our local school board members for their bravery and fortitude. They stood up for what was right and held their ground against a forceful tide of political correctness which was pressuring them to go against their own convictions as well as the traditional family values they were raised with.
Nebraskans won an important battle last Friday, but the war is not yet over. Nebraska’s Attorney General, Doug Peterson, has joined 20 other states in a federal lawsuit to halt the Biden administration’s efforts to extend federal sex discrimination protections to LGBTQ students at school. In June the federal Department of Education made a policy change, claiming that discrimination based upon a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title IX of the 1972 federal law which protects against sex discrimination in school.
The federal lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee by that state’s own Attorney General, Herbert Slatery, argues that the federal Department of Education had no authority to make the change in policy. Such authority, the lawsuit says, “properly belongs to Congress, the States, and the people.” I share this with you today so that you may never forget that the power of American government resides ultimately in the people. As Abraham Lincoln said at the close of his Gettysburg Address, “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Engraved over the north steps of the Capitol Building in Lincoln it says, “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen.”
Finally, I would also like to extend a hand of gratitude to all of the volunteer fire fighters who fought to extinguish fires in the Panhandle this summer. This has been a remarkable year for wildfires in Western Nebraska and it took a mighty and capable fire fighting force to battle the fires around the Panhandle. Thank you for being so readily available, for risking your own health and wellbeing, and for keeping us all safe.
How well informed are you? Do you get all of the news or only snippets of the news? Unfortunately, keeping up with all of the news today is like taking on a second full-time job. Few of us have the time, the energy, or the interest in researching every angle on every story. Complicating matters is the fact that our major media outlets slant the news according to their own political worldviews.
Mainstream journalism (not our local press) is very biased. Seldom does a person ever get both sides of a story by reading a single newspaper, website, or watching a newscast on television. In order to stay well-informed today, a person has to find trustworthy news sources. Therefore, today I would like to inform you about some things you probably missed in the news last week.
Last week many of us heard about how the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, mandated that all city employees get vaccinated against COVID-19. However, what you may not have heard is how the police union refused to comply with her order. The president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, John Catanzara, resisted the order saying, “We are 100% against mandated vaccines for our members.”
Many of us heard the news last week about how the whacky governor of Oregon mandated mask-wearing outdoors. However, what did not get reported is how the United Kingdom lifted their mask mandate for all of their public schools. The U.K.’s Department of Education released new teacher guidelines saying, “Our priority is for you to deliver face-to-face, high quality education to all pupils.”
Last week many of us heard how COVID-19 cases have been rising in Nebraska and about how we all need to get vaccinated. Perhaps you even heard about how Douglas County was denied their request for a new Directive Health Measure (DHM), yet one was implemented in Lancaster County by mayor, Leirion Gaylor-Baird. However, what hardly got reported at all was the fact that 25 percent of coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County occurred among fully vaccinated residents. According to the CDC among more than 43,000 reported infections of individuals over the age of sixteen, 10,895 or 25.3 percent had been fully vaccinated against the disease.
Last week you may have heard about how the FDA finally approved the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. However, what you likely did not hear is that it is not the same Pfizer vaccine that is currently being administered under the emergency use authorization. The vaccine which received FDA approval is actually the BioNTech vaccine, which is similar to the Pfizer vaccine but has yet to be manufactured. Dr. Robert Malone, who invented the mRNA technology used in both vaccines, has warned that the American public does not have enough information yet to decide if getting the shot is worth the risk.
Some other stories that you likely missed include how the U.S. Department of Justice forced the new Sing Tao Daily newspaper to register as a foreign agent because it is a subsidiary of a Chinese company. You may have also missed how 100 Afghans who have been evacuated from Kabul are on our own intelligence agencies watch lists. And you may have missed how CNN falsely reported that no Democrats were running to become the next governor of California in the upcoming recall election to oust Gov. Gavin Newsome. CNN was forced by the courts to correct their story after they got sued by Kevin Paffrath, a Democrat who is running in the election.
I share each of these stories with you today in order to show you how journalistic integrity is severely lacking in our mainstream press today. Today most of the news which comes to us is biased and only tells one side of the story. The truest measure of journalistic integrity is when both sides of a story get reported. Unfortunately, journalistic integrity is very hard to find in the mainstream press today.
The cancel culture runs strong in America today. The cancel culture seeks to destroy anyone who dissents from the political agenda of the Left. For instance, after My Pillow founder, Mike Lindell, publicly questioned the election results of 2020, he was ditched by 20 retailers who refused to continue selling his products. If Thomas Jefferson lived today, he would likely find himself being cancelled by Google and having his account suspended by Facebook.
Those who seek to regulate truth on the Internet have especially proven themselves to be terrible arbiters of truth. The standards of these self-avowed guardians of truth are extremely inconsistent. For instance, on January 8, 2021 Twitter announced that it had permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s Twitter account due to a post they deemed promoted violence, yet Twitter has refused to cancel the account of Hamas leader, Ismael Haniyyeh, who tweeted, “God is great…” after the May 2021 rocket bombing of Tel Aviv.
Free speech is quickly becoming a thing of the past in America. Because freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, I believe the time has come to regulate these self-proclaimed purveyors of truth on the Internet. Legislation is needed both on the federal level as well as on the state level to safeguard the rights of American citizens to tell their side of the story on the Internet. By now, most of us know someone who has had his or her social media account suspended or who has had a post unfairly removed by the self-proclaimed guardians of truth on the Internet.
The cancel culture is doing great harm to American society by squelching debate. Getting the truth out to the public has now become a very difficult task for the average American. Social media ought to be a place for the free exchange of ideas; instead, it has become a platform where its users must toe the Left-wing party line and operate within the bounds of how some people define social justice.
What the cancel culture has effectively done to the social justice movement in America is turn it into a form of mindless control and mob rule. Without the free exchange of ideas the social justice warriors of the Left have now become no different than the Nazi Party’s Brownshirts during World War II. Just as the Brownshirts tried to purge all dissenting opinions from Nazi Germany, today’s social justice warriors on the Internet seek to purge all dissenting opinions from cyberspace.
In order to see what I am talking about one needs to look no further than how talk about COVID-19 gets treated on the Internet. For example, the nation of India has almost completely eradicated the Delta variant of the coronavirus through its use of the drug Ivermectin, yet for some reason, we are not allowed to talk about this drug on the Internet. Mention the drug Ivermectin and you will be cancelled.
Wikipedia is one such place where talk of Ivermectin is not allowed. For instance, the folks who run Wikipedia won’t allow any mention of peer-reviewed studies by Dr. Tess Lawrie, Dr. Pierre Kory, or Dr. Andrew Hill. In fact, more than 60 studies have been completed on the use of Ivermectin, revealing up to a 96% success rate at preventing coronavirus deaths, yet for some reason no one is allowed to talk about it on Wikipedia.
America is descending back into the Dark Ages. During the Dark Ages scientists such as Galileo were not permitted to make models of the solar system because the scientific data contradicted the pope’s belief that the earth was at the center of the universe. Much like the popes of the Middle-Ages those who regulate information on the Internet today are not genuine truth seekers. Instead, they are nothing more than political hacks, who are pushing an extremist Left-wing agenda at the expense of our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Contrary to the cancel culture, I believe every American has the right to speak freely.
Have the Regents at the University of Nebraska spun out of control? Recent decisions by the Board of Regents suggests that the University of Nebraska is no longer the land grant University system that it once was. Because the University of Nebraska system is a land grant University, the Board of Regents are supposed to be accountable to the people of the State. Unfortunately, today they are beholden to students, faculty, the teachers’ union, and political activists, who do not share the same views as the vast majority of Nebraskans.
The University of Nebraska was chartered in 1869 as a Morrill Act land grant college. The Morrill Act granted federally controlled lands to states for the purpose of establishing colleges. The Morrill Act was intended to provide the general population with the opportunity to pursue higher education with practical relevance to daily living; however, much of what gets taught today at our land grant universities has little or no practical value whatsoever for daily living. For instance, what value is there in teaching critical race theory, especially when it teaches students to despise their white race and to deny their white privilege?
Last Friday the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska rejected a resolution to ban “any imposition of critical race theory” at the University. The Regents heard testimony from numerous faculty, students, teachers’ union representatives, and political activists, who do not represent the views of the vast majority of Nebraskans when it comes to teaching critical race theory. Despite the fact that the testimonies of the ordinary citizens were largely against the teaching of critical race theory, the resolution failed by a vote of 5-3.
Many of the political activists who testified at the hearing distorted American history in order to try to make their point, which is precisely what critical race theory teaches them to do. For instance, one such activist accused the writers of the Declaration of Independence of calling Native Americans “merciless savages,” but closer examination of the document shows that the Founding Fathers were actually accusing the British of turning some Native Americans into merciless savages in order to harass the colonists. If the intention of the Founding Fathers was to label all Native Americans as “merciless savages,” then one would also have to believe that the Founding Fathers were also calling every white colonist a domestic insurrectionist because both ideas appear in the same paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Clearly, the Founding Fathers were not labelling all of the white colonists as insurrectionists nor were they calling all Native Americans merciless savages, yet this is precisely what critical race theory teaches students to do.
Besides failing to act on critical race theory, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska have also overstepped their bounds of authority when it comes to regulating student health. This year students at the University of Nebraska are being asked to download and use the Safer Community App onto their cell phones. The Safer Community App violates a student’s right to privacy, especially in regards to his or her medical history.
Students at the University of Nebraska this year are being asked to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite the fact that the coronavirus has minimal effects on young people or that a student may already possess his or her body’s own natural immunity against the disease. Instead, those who refuse to get vaccinated must get tested once per week. The Safer Communities App monitors each student’s vaccination status, reminding unvaccinated students to get tested and warning students whenever they have been exposed to someone with the virus. Moreover, the Safer Communities App is what will be used to grant students access to the University’s buildings. Forget to get tested and you won’t be allowed to attend class until you get it done!
The Board of Regents need to remember who they work for. They do not work for the students, the teachers, the teachers’ union, or the political activists. Instead, they work for the people of Nebraska. Because the University of Nebraska is a land grant university, the people of Nebraska have every right to hold them accountable for every poor decision they make.
The time has come to formally call for the resignations of every member of the Nebraska State Board of Education, including Education Commissioner, Matthew Blomstedt. Each of the members of the Nebraska State Board of Education needs to resign because the board has failed to listen to the people of Nebraska, failed to adequately reform the sex education standards, and has failed to educate Nebraska’s students. Instead of doing what the vast majority of the people want and what is best for our students, they have insisted upon promoting their own Left-wing ideological agenda while failing to adequately educate Nebraska’s K-12 students.
When it comes to analyzing the second draft of the State Board of Education’s sex education standards, I am reminded of the old song, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am,” especially the line which says, “Second verse, same as the first!” Second draft, same as the first. Instead of removing LGBTQ+ activists from the drafting committee, the State Board of Education has relied upon them to write the second draft. For instance, the group Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), which is an LGBTQ+ advocacy group who helped write the first draft, contributed to the wording of the second draft. SIECUS cares absolutely nothing about the concerns of Nebraska’s parents; they only care about promoting their own LGBTQ+ agenda, which is overtly stated on their website. Once again, missing from the writing committee were conservative parents, private school administrators, and clergy.
The second draft of the sex education curriculum effectively changed nothing. For instance, section H.E. 7.7.2.d of the standards teaches students to: “Recognize that biological sex and gender identity may or may not differ.” Worded this way, the new state standards will allow even the most extreme activists for the LGBTQ+ movement to indoctrinate students inside our schools with their own views on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nebraska’s parents asked the State Board of Education to remove this item altogether, not to reword it in a more palatable and less offensive way. So, the board has refused to listen to the people.
The Nebraska State Board of Education has failed to adequately educate our students. Instead of writing pro-LGBTQ+ sex education curriculum, the Nebraska State Board of Education should have concerned themselves with improving education in Nebraska. When it comes to educating our children, Nebraska is the worst state in the country, including Washington, D.C. But you do not have to accept this ranking from me; instead, accept it from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). You may view their ranking yourself online by going to: www.alecreportcard.org.
Two weeks ago I attended the ALEC convention for state legislators in Salt Lake City, Utah only to learn how terrible our education system is in Nebraska. According to ALEC, Nebraska ranks 51st in the nation for educational performance. The ALEC Report Card ranks each state’s educational system according eight different criteria, and when those criteria are added up, Nebraska ranks as the absolute worst educational system in America.
Missing from the ALEC criteria was anything having to do with promoting an LGBTQ+ agenda for the State. Instead, the folks at ALEC focus on matters that are actually relevant to education. Therefore, what the ALEC ranking tells me is that our State Board of Education has been spending far too much time catering to the LGBTQ+ activists and promoting their own Left-wing agenda for our State and not spending nearly enough time working on improving educational standards in our State. It is downright shameful that Nebraska should have the worst education system in America!
Because the Nebraska State Board of Education has insisted upon flinging the door wide open for the LGBTQ+ activists to indoctrinate our students, and because the State Board of Education has refused to listen to the vast majority of Nebraska’s parents, and because the State Board of Education has given us the worst education system in America, each and every member of the State Board of Education, including the Education Commissioner needs to resign immediately.
Earlier this year I co-signed LB 643, a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair to protect the rights of citizens and parents to choose for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated in the event that the government, a school or a business tries to impose a mandatory inoculation. Although the bill has failed to advance out of the HHS committee, I continue to believe that it is a fundamental breech of our individual liberty to impose a mandatory vaccination upon the American public. Yet, this is exactly what is now trending throughout our American society, even though there are good reasons not to get vaccinated.
Last week President Joe Biden announced sweeping changes to his COVID-19 policy and the new Delta variant. All federal workers are now being required to sign forms attesting to their having been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new mask-wearing guidelines, despite the fact that cloth masks have been repeatedly shown not to be able to contain the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. The Biden administration continues to turn a blind eye to the real science of the pandemic. So, today I want to expose why the Biden Administration’s new policy is a bad policy and how it ignores the best scientific data we have on the coronavirus to date.
The Biden administration continues to ignore the real science of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, last week Emory University released the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the natural immunity of recovered COVID-19 patients. The study, which was published in Cell Reports Medicine, looked at 254 COVID-19 patients over a period of 250 days and found that their own natural immunity to the coronavirus remained both durable and strong for several months following their recovery.
It gets much better than this. The study found that the immune response of the 254 test subjects increased with the severity of the disease and also with each decade of age. The study not only found that the physical body produces its own neutralizing antibodies, but that it also activates both T and B cells, thus creating its own immunity memory response system to help ward off any future infections.
Dr. Rafi Ahmed, who led the study at Emory University, said about the study that “We saw that antibody responses, especially IgG antibodies, were not only durable in the vast majority of patients but decayed at a much slower pace than previously estimated, which suggests that patients are generating longer- lived plasma cells that can neutralize the SARS-Co-V-2 spike protein.” In other words, the body’s own natural immunity does not wear out within six to eight months as was previously thought.
So, despite the latest and best research to the contrary, the Biden Administration has pushed their own agenda forward to get everyone in the United States vaccinated as soon as possible, even for those who have already recovered from a coronavirus infection and have their body’s own natural immunity to protect them going forward into the future.
In response to the Biden Administration’s new policy, Dr. Paul Kempen, who leads the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has responded to the ridiculousness and dangers of the Biden Administration’s new policy. Dr. Kempen said, “As of mid-July, 30 million people have recovered from COVID-19 in the U.S. and have natural immunity. Vaccination of these persons confers only risk with little to no benefit, yet these mandates do not exempt them.” He went on to warn the public about the vaccinations saying that, “Serious side effects have been identified, including paralysis and inflammation of the heart muscle, which may not be resolved and may cause death.”
So, why is a State Senator writing on such a federal issue? Well, as I said above, vaccinations are a matter of individual liberty and misinformation about natural immunity is now effecting every part of American society. For instance, the Regents at the University of Nebraska recently approved their SAFER COMMUNITIES App for students, which tracks the medical records of all university students in order to ensure compliance with the university’s new COVID-19 policy. Beginning this fall the University of Nebraska will be requiring all students to either get vaccinated or to get tested weekly for the coronavirus. But, such a policy ignores the most comprehensive and recent scientific data we have on natural immunity and unnecessarily infringes upon the personal liberties of the students.
Nebraska’s K-12 public schools operate on an academic calendar that is unfriendly to families. Over the summer months I have been considering introducing legislation next year which would standardize the academic school calendars for all of Nebraska’s K-12 public schools, making them more family friendly. So, today I would like to make the case for why this change needs to be made.
Currently, Nebraska’s K-12 public schools begin sometime in mid-August and usually end before Memorial Day. For example, in the Bayard Public School District, which is where I live, school starts on August 12 and ends on May 18. That’s 11 days before Memorial Day! This kind of calendar takes half the month of August away from families who need that time to take their summer vacations.
The families I have spoken with would prefer a K-12 academic calendar which begins in September near Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day. This is how they do it in the state of Wisconsin. For instance, the school calendar for the Alma School District in Wisconsin begins September 1, 2021 and ends May 27, 2022.
It is much easier for parents to plan around summer vacation than around a single day off in the middle of the week. Examine any public school’s calendar in Nebraska, and you will see that they have scheduled days off for students and teachers midweek which do not correspond to any federal or state holidays nor are these days reserved for in-service training. In order to accommodate for these shorter academic weeks, student learning now has to begin in mid-August.
Students need to attend school five days per week, not four. Schools are supposed to prepare students for life in the real world. When students attend school only four days per week, it gives them a false sense of how life in the real world operates.
Nebraska’s public school calendars are not family friendly. Whenever students and teachers take a midweek day off it puts an undue strain on families to have to care for their children. Working parents seldom ever have the luxury of being able to take a day off from work midweek or work from home in order to care for their children when they really ought to be working for their employer. Consequently, giving teachers the luxury of a midweek day off constitutes an undue burden for working families to have to bear.
Teacher in-service days do not need to be scheduled during the academic calendar year. Instead, teacher in-service days should be scheduled during the summer months when children are out of school. Under my plan public schools would have three full months for holding in-service days without disrupting the academic calendar or the normal five day school week. So, instead of starting student learning on August 12, let the teachers begin working on August 12.
Some may wish to argue that the current academic calendar yields better test results for learning than the old academic calendar, but this is false. The most objective metric for student learning is the ACT. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national composite score for the ACT back in 1995, before most states changed their academic calendars, was 20.8. However, the national composite score for last year was only 20.6. Nebraska’s composite score for last year was only 19.9. So, the argument cannot be made that changing to the new academic calendar has somehow improved academic performance.
The academic situation in Nebraska is deteriorating fast. The latest test scores show that only 41 percent of high school juniors in Nebraska are proficient in reading. Reading scores have been declining for several years. For instance, the average reading score for Nebraska’s 8th grade students in 2019 was 264, but in in 2017 it was 269, and in 2002 it was 270. Could this be the result of reducing time for summer reading?
So, the time has come for school administrators and school boards to reconsider the needs of students and families when it comes to planning the academic calendar. Students and families would be much better served by an academic calendar which begins after Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day. Hopefully, this kind of legislation won’t ever be necessary.
The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. This popular definition of insanity describes what it is like to work with the Nebraska Department of Education. No matter how many times the people of Nebraska testify against the newly proposed education standards and demand that the old curriculum be reinstated, the Nebraska Department of Education continues to press forward with its own agenda.
Despite the thousands of emails and letters the Nebraska Department of Education has received in opposition to these newly proposed standards, the Nebraska State Board of Education continues to press forward with its second draft. Despite the fact that 73 people testified in opposition to the new standards compared to the two people who testified in favor of the newly proposed standards at a recent hearing in Kearney, the Nebraska State Board of Education refuses to end their campaign of reforming Nebraska’s educational standards. Despite the call from the Governor and several resolutions passed by school boards calling for them to rescind these new educational standards, the Nebraska State Board of Education continues to ignore these calls and do their own thing.
The Nebraska Department of Education has a serious credibility problem. But don’t just take this from me. Last week I received a letter from the Education Commissioner, Matthew Blomstedt, which said that he and the State Board of Education are currently experiencing “a crisis of confidence” due to the controversy which has arisen over these new education standards. “A crisis of confidence” are his words, not mine!
There are good reasons why the State Board of Education is experiencing a crisis of confidence. To put it simply, they do not shoot straight with the people of Nebraska and they leave parents in a position of having to guess about what may be coming down the pike for their children.
Matthew Blomstedt, the Education Commissioner, continues to mislead the public. In the same letter that I received last week from the Education Commissioner, he made the following statement, “I, like most of you, were not familiar with Critical Race Theory (CRT)…” Really? If that really was the case, then why did he say in his “Points of Clarification” letter dated May 7, 2021 that “Critical Race Theory was not used to develop the proposed draft of the Nebraska Health Education Standards”? Why would he make such a bold claim without knowing what CRT actually is? CRT is clearly embedded in the first draft of the newly proposed education standards. So, did he not read the first draft?
Even if we take him at his word, the commissioner has admitted that he is unfamiliar with the latest trends in educational theory. Nebraska needs a commissioner who is competent and who is familiar with the latest trends in educational theory. The only way we can effectively steer Nebraska’s public educational system into the future is by having a competent person at the helm, who is familiar with these latest trends in educational theory and who can carefully and critically evaluate them.
The State Board of Education is now backpedaling and trying to dupe the public by using double-speak. I believe the State Board of Education intends to move forward with a second draft which will contain a milder form of its ideology. Here’s why. The letter I received last week stated that the second draft would remove some of the more “explicit examples” but said nothing about altering the overall message or content of the standards. The letter also said that the State Board of Education intends to “reframe sensitive topics” instead of deleting them altogether.
The people of Nebraska have spoken loud and clear. The vast majority of the people of Nebraska do not want such things as sexual orientation, gender identity, and Critical Race Theory “reframed” and taught to their children; instead, they want these things deleted from the educational standards altogether. Until the State Board of Education bends its ear and its agenda to the will of the people, I believe this crisis of confidence will continue to grow. To be sure, if all we get is a milder form of the first draft without complete deletions of the controversial material, it will be time to call for the resignations of every member of the State Board of Education including that of the Education Commissioner.