A Nebraska State Senator has proposed a bill she claims will prevent discrimination in Nebraska schools, but critics suspect her real target is school choice.
Sen. Megan Hunt, D-District 8, introduced Legislative Bill 487, which adds “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the list of protected traits, like race, gender and national origin.
The bill’s single section reads:
“No school in Nebraska receiving public funds shall discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, citizen status, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or special education status.”
Hunt is a vocal opponent of school choice, claiming it will send taxpayer dollars to private schools which discriminate against LGBT youth. If her stand-alone bill is defeated, she would seek to attach it as an amendment to a school choice bill, like LB 753, which would create a scholarship fund for tuition at private or parochial schools.
However, Hunt’s measure would package the use of those scholarship dollars with much of the controversial and objectionable public-school policies and curricula from which families are fleeing.
The senator is supported by the Nebraska State Education Association, ACLU of Nebraska, LGBTQ+ rights nonprofit OutNebraska, and public schools nonprofit Stand For Schools, which argued LB 487 would ensure no schools in Nebraska are discriminatory.
Opponents of Hunt’s bill took issue with the inclusion of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” with one testifier worrying it would open the door to “sexualizing children.”
The debate quickly turned toward the real target of the bill – school choice – with Hunt and other supporters acknowledging the legislation may be more appropriately considered as an amendment.
The primary sponsor of the school choice bill LB 753, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, R-District 39, took issue with the vague definitions of “public funds” and “discrimination” in Hunt’s bill, noting it could result in a public school district losing funding for turning away special education students or other transfer students due to capacity or staffing issues.
LB 487 is expected to fail in committee, setting the stage for debate of it being an amendment to LB 753, which has already been voted out of committee for floor debate.