Gov. Pillen signs bill to give tax credits to donors of private school scholarships

Gov. Jim Pillen signed LB753 into law Tuesday, making Nebraska the 49th state to implement school choice.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 12:21 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Jim Pillen has signed LB753, a bill that authorizes $25 million in tax credits for those who donate scholarships to private schools in Nebraska.

The bill was signed by Pillen on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. It passed 33-11-5 last week.

Supporters say scholarships resulting from LB753, one of the governor’s flagship bills, will give opportunities to low-income families. Opponents warn of negative impacts on public education.

After the signing, Nebraska became the 49th state to have some version of school choice on the books.

Gov. Pillen took the signing ceremony outdoors, wanting to share the moment with as many people as possible.

“As a single mother, I never would have been able to afford a private school education had it not been for the scholarships and financial aid that I was given at Sacred Heart,” said Tanya Santos.

Tanya Santos is now principal at Holy Name, one of the schools that can benefit from these private scholarships aimed at lower-income families.

“My community can’t wait for 50 years for choice to happen in a public school setting,” said Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha. “It’s not a knock on public schools. But it’s actually a way for us to empower parents so they can control their educational outcomes in their community regardless of their income level.”

Critics argue that public education will suffer because of these private scholarships.

The new law sets aside $25 million in tax credits, so when someone donates to a private school scholarship, they get a dollar-for-dollar tax break as an incentive. It’s a pool expected to grow to $100 million in a few years.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn has been championing this issue for the last seven years.

She says there’s plenty of accountability built into the program to make sure the money is going where it’s intended.

“People don’t understand that there are kids today who are getting turned down for scholarships, a lot of kids,” Linehan said. “So now there shouldn’t be any reason to turn kids down.

The first year will be about schools raising money for the scholarships. The law requires feedback on how many children will get the scholarships and to where. The private school must be accredited to be eligible.