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NE: Omaha senator to propose education reform

By   /   September 20, 2012  /   No Comments

By Deena Winter  Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN — Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh said today he will pursue several education reform measures in the next legislative session, including the legalization of charter schools and a reduction in the size of the Omaha school board.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh

Lautenbaugh said recent events in the Omaha school district – including a recently uncovered $1 million payout to the outgoing superintendent – prompted his proposals.

“Recent events involving the Omaha Public School District Board, its superintendent search, the outgoing superintendent’s lavish and apparently unknown compensation package, and the ongoing sense of chaos and underperformance by the board and/or the district have convinced me more than ever that change is needed within OPS,” he said in a press release today.

Lautenbaugh said he will again propose a bill that would force the Omaha Public School District board to shrink from the current 12 members to seven. He argues the board is too large and makes it difficult to set policy, manage the administration and bring change.

He also said he thinks the Omaha school board should abandon its self-imposed December deadline for hiring a new superintendent, given the recent controversies.

“I especially see no reason why we are better off having any board members who were involved in the (John) Mackiel contracts leading the way with a new superintendent’s contract,” he said. Mackiel is the former superintendent.

The senator said charter schools would allow parents to take their children out of schools that are underperforming in “some areas” of Omaha – particularly east of 72nd Street.

And he wants a mechanism that would allow the state to swiftly step in and run failing schools, accusing OPS of resisting change and preserving subpar administrators.

He also said he will try to set limits on administrative compensation packages, saying he was appalled at Mackiel’s compensation package, and the number of non-teachers in general.

The Nebraska chapter of Americans for Prosperity immediately lauded Lautenbaugh’s proposals, saying Nebraskans deserver more choice in how to educate their children.

“The recent events in Omaha Public Schools demonstrate that the Board and top administrators have failed to provide accountability, transparency and leadership to students, teachers and Omaha’s taxpayers,” state director Brad Stevens said in a press release. “Reform legislation proposed by Senator Lautenbaugh to cap administrator pay will go a long way in controlling costs and stabilizing public confidence in OPS.”

Reported by Deena Winter, [email protected]. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog.

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Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.