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Omaha senator to propose sweeping education reforms

By   /   August 29, 2013  /   11 Comments

An Omaha senator who succeeded in shrinking the size of the Omaha school board says he’ll introduce a slate of sweeping education reforms next year.

Scott Lautenbaugh

Scott Lautenbaugh

Republican Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh said while the smaller Omaha Public Schools board is performing “admirably,” he still sees a need for additional changes to Nebraska’s school system. He wants the state to authorize independent public schools within OPS where schools are underachieving.

“The parents in these areas need the neighborhood-based, public alternatives that such schools would provide,” he said. “Putting at-risk kids on a bus for two hours a day to get them to a quality school does not constitute a fair choice for them, and will not engage their parents in that distant school. I will continue to fight for a better option for these kids.”

Lautenbaugh says he will introduce legislation to:

• Increase pay for board-certified teachers, with reimbursement and raises for teachers in high-poverty districts who get certified and continue working in the district for five years.

• Grade schools based on their performance, with bonus money for those that improve their grades and bonuses for teachers whose students pass AP exams.

• End “social promotion” after third grade and increase graduation requirements. Lautenbaugh said it’s crucial that students have the ability to read at the third-grade level before moving on and too many graduates must take remedial courses before starting college course work.

• Mandate that principals approve teacher transfers, to end “the dance of the lemons” where failing teachers are passed from school to school.

• Reform teacher tenure and eliminate administrator tenure and reform pensions. Lautenbaugh wants to end “last in, first out” layoffs and instead lay off the lowest performing teachers, regardless of seniority. He said the existing teacher pension system allows teachers to fully vest in a pension in five years, retire, begin drawing a pension and then return to work and vest in another pension.

• Provide alternative ways for teachers to become certified. For example, people who have college degrees in other fields could get on-the-job training or complete community college programs, he said. Under the current rules, Nebraska can’t participate in programs like Teach for America, he said.

“As a result, instead of drawing talent into our state or retaining local talent, we are losing out on extraordinary individuals who go elsewhere to pursue such service,” Lautenbaugh said.

Lautenbaugh said money isn’t always the answer to improving education.

“Sometimes we need to adopt better practices, end bad practices and/or raise the standards for all involved,” he said. “We can’t keep writing kids off and tolerating failure – it is time to act in the best interest of our children, not defend the status quo.”

The Nebraska State Education Association has not responded to a request for comment.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Ricky Fulton

    I didn’t read the words “charter schools” in there did I? That flunked out last session. Betting that Justin Wayne and Lauttnegack will get together over a few cold ones to figure it all out.


  • Joe Smith

    Good for Senator Lautenbaugh. It’s about time Nebraska make students the number one priority in….educating students.

  • George Jefferson

    This is a very old debate how to get struggling schools up to par. I’m glad Sen Lautenbaugh came up with a plan packed full of practical solutions that are attainable.
    I hope he is able to get his plan off paper and into real world practice. This is the kind of non-partisan leadership Nebraska needs. This is government fixing a problem.
    Good job Scott!!

  • Jenn

    He seems to be basing his entire proposal on Omaha schools. Make sure that what you are proposing will work in all school districts, not just Omaha and LIncoln. Sometimes things that work in the city, don’t work so well out here in the Panhandle.

  • Juan Blanco

    Scott should walk through Tech High and then ask himself: “Why did the OPS Administration office fit inside Joslyn Castle when I was a kid but now we need an entire 3 or 4 story building?” Its not like the population has doubled in the last 25 years…

  • Kent Goertzen

    Nebraska ranks on average top 10 in the country. Why are we changing things that seem to work?

    Oh that’s right, Lautenbaugh is part of ALEC’s agenda.

  • lolasblest

    I’d like to know how he’s going to get the teacher’s union lobby to agree to even get this out of committee and see the light of day on the floor?!??! They’ve got a stronghold on any mention of education reform, especially basing teacher hiring/firing on teacher performance.
    I do agree that money is NOT the answer to improving education. Reviving the sanctity of marriage and the importance of a strong and loving 2 parent household would do more for education that ANY amount of financial gain. I’ve worked in an elementary school in South O for a dozen years and have seen countless curriculum changes, admin changes at the school and district level (look at what a million dollar payout to Mackiel and a tidy sum for interim Moon got the district as far as student achievement), method and technique changes based on the latest and greatest research and…NOTHING! Give a kid a whoopin’ when they need it and mom and dad who care for and about their child on a consistent basis and I can guarantee you will see a difference!

  • Melanie Williams-Smotherman

    Perhaps he should speak about the merits of not drinking while driving. And Teach for America?? With their ties to Common Core and the attack on public education, teachers, our children’s natural love of learning? – BEWARE!

    What is Scott Lautenbaugh’s interest or expertise in this area? What is his interest in Common Core?

  • W. Dodd


    OPS Administration did not all fit into Joslyn Castle. They were spread all over the Distrct, which was not efficient.

  • Lived in Omaha 60 years

    Two-thirds of the TAC building contains classrooms for technical classes that are too expensive to maintain in each high school. Maybe Lautenbaugh should spend some time in OPS before making sweeping, unsubstantiated and reckless [read: stupid] statements. Wait — he doesn’t even live in Omaha.

  • Mr. Ed Reform

    What are you basing this ranking on? Top 10? According to our StudentsFirst, which ranks all states in Education across a variety of metrics, Omaha is 2nd to last in education policy, reform, and student achievement? We can’t sit idly by and say that things are okay when they are not, especially along socioeconomic lines of difference.