NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 17, 2006

The Nebraska Legislature voted yesterday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts -- one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic -- in a move decried as state-enforced segregation.

Supporters, including the bill's sponsor and the legislature's only black senator, says the plan would give minorities control over their own school board and ensure that their children are not "shortchanged" in favor of white youngsters.

  • Attorney General Jon Bruning sent a letter to one of the measure's opponents saying that the bill could be in violation of the Constitution's equal-protection clause and that lawsuits almost certainly will be filed.
  • Its backers say that its passage will force policy-makers to negotiate seriously about the future of schools in the Omaha area.
  • The breakup would not occur until July 2008, leaving time for lawmakers to come up with another idea.

"There is no intent to create segregation," says Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature's only black senator and a longtime critic of the school system. He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.

Chambers says the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and quality teachers provided others in the district. He says the black students he represents in northern Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.

  • The 45,000-student Omaha school system is 46 percent white, 31 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian or American Indian.
  • Boundaries for the newly created districts would be drawn using current high-school attendance areas.
  • That would result in four possible scenarios, but in every scenario, two districts would end up with a majority of students who are racial minorities.

Source: Scott Bauer, "Omaha schools to be split by race," Washington Times, April 14, 2006.


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