Charter Pulse

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NEBRASKA: Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh: Omaha fertile ground for charter schools

LautenbaughOmaha’s poorest neighborhoods would be a good place to open charter schools, an Omaha lawmaker said.

State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh said charter schools have proved effective in serving students from high-poverty areas.

Lautenbaugh said he’s certain that charter school operators and nonprofits would step forward with concrete proposals for schools if his authorizing bill passes the Legislature.

“I’m not worried that we won’t have applicants,” he said.

Lautenbaugh participated in a roundtable discussion after a Wednesday evening screening of the documentary film “The Ticket: The Many Faces of School Choice.”

The event was held at the Durham Museum and was sponsored by the Platte Institute for Economic Research in conjunction with National School Choice Week.

The Platte Institute was founded by Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts, who is a Republican candidate for governor. Ricketts has resigned as president of the group to devote time to the governor’s race.

The film highlighted success stories from across the country. It featured testimonials from parents and students who benefited from various forms of school choice: home-schooling, open enrollment, vouchers, charters and online schools.

Filmmaker Bob Bowdon, a former television host and founder of ChoiceMedia, attended the screening and made his pitch for charters in Nebraska.

Bowdon pointed out that 36 percent of Nebraska eighth-­graders scored proficient in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“If you’re happy with 36 percent, we’re done here,” he told the crowd of about 200 in the museum lecture hall.

Nationwide, 34 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient.

Bowdon made the 2009 documentary “The Cartel,” which was critical of America’s public education system, focusing particularly on union influence, waste and highly paid bureaucrats in New Jersey schools.

ChoiceMedia is a nonprofit that describes its mission as exposing “America’s high-cost, low-performing schools,” while highlighting successes.

Bowdon dismissed critics who object to allowing charter schools because some have failed.

“Just because there’s a bad restaurant doesn’t mean you oppose restaurant choice,” he said.

Last year, Lautenbaugh pushed a charter schools bill that went nowhere. This year, he has a new bill that would allow the creation of independent public schools only in Omaha; they would operate under a compact granted by the State Board of Education.

The schools would operate independently of a school board and would be managed by a board of trustees — essentially charter schools but not called that.

Justin Wayne, president of the Omaha Public Schools board, attended the event, saying he was “just here listening.”

Wayne said board members have yet to take a position on LB 972.

Asked his opinion of charter schools, Wayne said, “I’m not afraid of them.”

Omaha school board member Anthony Vargas, a participant in the roundtable discussion, said charters can inspire innovation and can coexist with traditional public schools.

Source: Omaha.com – by Joe Dejka

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2014 by in Charter Schools, Nebraska, States.

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