Charter Schools Education Reform Nebraska Privatization

Omaha: What I Said, In Brief

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This was written before I spoke in Omaha, but the reporter was well prepared and got the gist. Actually when I spoke to him, I had not yet written my speech.


What I said in Omaha:


In a few words: You are too independent, too smart, too stubborn to follow everyone else over the edge of a cliff. You have saved tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of dollars by losing Race to the Top. You are a model for the nation. And without having adopted any of the so-called “reforms,” Nebraska is one of the highest-performing states in the nation on NAEP. In fact, Nebraska outperformed every state that won RTTT except Massachusetts.


Nebraska surprised me. It dragged its feet implementing NCLB. It put in a proposal for Race to the Top, but fortunately lost. It has no charter schools, no Common Core. It didn’t get a waiver because the state doesn’t want to evaluate teachers by test scores. The state commissioner Matt Blomstedt has decided not to ask anymore but to wait and see if NCLB is overhauled.


The state is mainly rural so there is not much enthusiasm for charters except in Omaha, where there is a poor black community. Some black leaders think that charter schools will be a panacea. Some white legislators agree. But so far no action on that front.


Despite the fact that Nebraska avoided almost every part of the reform menu, its students did very well on the 2015 NAEP. The state was in the top tier, ranked 9th or 11th in the nation. It outperformed every Race to the Top winner except Massachusetts, which has been number1 for years.


Nebraska is a conservative state, in the best sense of the word. It doesn’t believe in following the crowd. It doesn’t want to blow up its public schools and hope for the best. It wisely decided to wait and see. No creative disruption. No experiments on children. Just common sense.


Also, being a state where people know one another in small cities, towns, and rural communities,  Nebraska loves its public schools. Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, sent his own children to Omaha public schools.


But there is a new governor, and he is convinced that Nebraska needs charters, vouchers, virtual schools, the whole bag of privatization schemes.



Hopefully the good citizens of Nebraska will persuade him that conservatives don’t destroy; conservatives conserve. Hopefully, they will inform the governor that Nebraska’s public schools are among the best in the nation.


If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

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