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Omaha Magazine

Point Counterpoint: To Pass or Not to Pass LB 768

Jan 28, 2022 01:37PM ● By Crystal Rhodes & Douglas Kagan
empty desks in a classroom

Photo by Ivan Aleksic via Unsplash

Argument to Pass LB 768

By Douglas Kagan

Photo provided

 The Nebraska State Board of Education attempting to promulgate a statewide health/sex education curriculum without prior public input caused a firestorm of protest among Nebraska parents, causing the spontaneous creation of an army of angry mama bears.  Irate citizens flooded State Board meetings to speak in opposition.  In response, the State Board voted to indefinitely postpone disseminating this curriculum.  However, merely postponing this material, considered vulgar and degenerate by many, is not a solution.  

LB 768, sponsored by State Sen. Joni Albrecht, permanently would prohibit the State Board from developing, adopting, approving, or distributing comprehensive health/sex education standards for public schools.  Local school districts still could develop their own standards with solicited public input.  The Legislature never has authorized the board to adopt health/sex education standards, though the Unicameral has authorized core curricula reading, writing, math, science, and social studies statewide standards.  And the State Board had not previously issued periodic health/sex education standards.

Unfortunately, State Board promoters of health/sex education standards already have lost and violated the trust of parents and others by attempting to promote materials found highly objectionable and harmful to the morals of our children.  LB 768 would acknowledge that parents, as primary decision-makers for their children’s education, will have the right to lobby and monitor their local school boards on such sensitive curricula.  In response to this furor, Gov. Ricketts has included in his fiscal year budget (LB 1011) restrictions of state funds used for research, adoption, drafting, or implementation of state sex education standards by the State Board of Education.  Such unfunded state mandates on local school districts have multiplied over the decades, causing increased expenditures on local school districts, which in turn places pressure on property taxes paid by school district residents.

Concerned citizens should lobby their respective state senators to pass LB 768 as a safeguard for our children.

Douglas Kagan is the chairman for Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, a non-partisan grass roots organization dedicated to freedom by fiscal restraint.

Argument to Hold LB 768

by Crystal Rhoades

Photo provided    

 Legislative Bill 768 seeks to restrict the Nebraska State Board of Education from carrying out its constitutional mandate to provide uniform education standards across the state. The State Board of Education is an elected, constitutional body that sets policy and ensures that the State Department of Education functions effectively within the framework developed by the state Legislature and the board. By law, the board and the department have broad leadership functions to carry out certain regulatory and service activities. The board is elected on a non-partisan ballot, with one member from each district. 

LB 768 directly undermines the State Board of Education’s ability to carry out constitutional duties by using unnecessarily restrictive language that will prevent the board from developing, approving, distributing, adopting or promulgating academic content standards without explicit authorization from the legislature. There are so many problems with the language it’s difficult to know where to begin. 

The State Board of Education is an elected board. They are elected by district with each of the eight districts being responsible for assisting in crafting and adopting educational standards for our state. It’s a tried-and-true method of bringing uniform standards to the students in our state, ensuring that they all meet rigorous standards, and that education is equitable across our state. There is no reason to undermine their ability to do their jobs by implementing such restrictive language. 

This is partisanship at its absolute worse. Republicans have been candid and forthcoming about their desire to stop the Board of Education from implementing comprehensive sexual education and has created specters of evil Democrats destroying public education by updating standards to reflect modern scientific knowledge and changing social norms related to sexual and gender orientation and expression and other topics such as racial justice. This bill stems from a desire to limit student’s exposure to those topics and facilitate fear and distrust through planned ignorance. It should be noted that the language is sufficiently vague so that it could interfere on other topics as well. 

To be sure, parents, teachers, and the students should have an opportunity to engage the State Board of Education on the topic and engage in robust discussion before changes or alterations are made, but that appears to be exactly how things are working under the current statutes. This bill is not being brought forward to ensure that more input is collected, it is being put forward to bind the State Board of Education to the whims of the executive and legislative majorities, rather than allow for local control based on the votes of the elected officials tasked with developing the standards. The State Board of Education and the duly elected members should retain the power and authority to construct, seek input from the electorate, and implement standards as they see fit. There is no need to add additional barriers to them carrying out their educational mandate. They have been successfully carrying out these duties since 1869 and should be allowed to continue to do so without partisan interference. 

Commissioner Crystal Rhoades is the highest-ranking Democrat in the state, a political advisor, and former Douglas County Party Chairwoman.

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