Omaha Community Pushes For Charter Schools At State Capital

Franque Thompson

LINCOLN, NE (KPTM)- Parents and community members said some of the metro's poorest students, as well as those struggling academically, are being left behind when it comes to their education. So, they took their fight to state lawmakers to approve a bill that would place charter schools in North and South Omaha.

State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh introduced the bill, LB 972, stating charter schools across the country are effective in educating students from high-poverty areas.

Charter schools are non-traditional, publicly funded schools that have a set of rules seen to be more flexible than public schools. Students are held accountable in producing results set by the school.

Willie Hamilton, a North Omaha community leader and member of Black Men United, agrees.

"Charter schools are out performing a lot of the public schools around the country. We've had a enough time in between to be able to find out what's working and what's not," he said.

Hamilton said what is not working for Omaha's most at-risk children is the current public school system.

"If you're rich, your kids are doing good in school. If you're middle class, you know, we can probably toss it up in the air, but mostly poor kids, at risk kids are not doing good," he said.

"There's a huge issue in the school system. if our children do not fit the ideal model for teaching, then parents are left to kind of scramble to figure out what is best for them," said Clarice Jackson, who owns her own mentoring and tutoring company for dyslexic students.

Nebraska is one of eight states that does not have charter schools. If the bill were to pass, up to five charter schools will be allowed. Each school would be managed by a board of trustees. No fees or tuition would be required from students because each school would be funded by tax dollars.

Hamilton gathered a group of parents and supporters on a bus and took their concerns straight to the state capital Tuesday. Parents said this was a perfect opportunity to express the need for charter schools in Omaha poorer neighborhoods to Nebraska's law makers.

"This is a step in the right direction. It opens up the door for choice. it opens up the door to give parents an opportunity to say. 'if this school isn't working, then I have the opportunity to send my child somewhere else," said Jackson.

"What this thing is all about is to be able to give us choice because the education system as it is right now is failing," said Hamilton.