- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Anticipating that a bill to greenlight charter schools in Nebraska will be introduced in the next legislative session, the Omaha Public Schools Board is considering a resolution that would show its support for them.

Nebraska is one of eight states that do not allow the independent, taxpayer-funded schools that are typically operated by private groups and companies. Several bills to OK them have failed in the Legislature, including one last year that would have established five in Omaha, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1C93mFu ) reported Friday.

Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts, who will take office in January, supports the schools. With another charter school bill likely, several OPS board members say they need to be proactive in helping steer what a school choice system in Nebraska could look like.

Board member Marian Fey said the resolution was a way for the panel to start a conversation about charter schools and discuss innovative programs already in the works in the Omaha school district.

“It sends a message to the Legislature that, ‘This is what we do want; this is what we’d like to work within this framework,’” Fey said. “And it also sends a message to parents and staff, that this is what we’re looking for.”

The board didn’t vote on the resolution Monday and could tweak the language. The resolution currently states OPS would support legislation that gives groups the ability to form local charter schools if they are free and open to all students and are judged by the same standards as public schools, such as the Nebraska State Accountability standardized tests.

The OPS board would have oversight over funding and the charter contract itself, but the group petitioning for the charter still would have the right to hire staff and develop school curriculum.

Not all board members welcome charter schools, which some critics say take away tax dollars from public schools while excluding students that public schools must accept, such as students who need special education or English language training. But Fey said she thought the board’s discussion was a step in the right direction.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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