Friday, April 07, 2006

WARNING: "First, Do No Harm" to Omaha Public Schools

by Kyle Michaelis
In most aspects of life, as in government, one can rarely go wrong in borrowing this little bit of wisdom from Hippocrates: First, do no harm.

In that vein, particularly in regards to the Omaha metro's long-brewing battle over Nebraska's "One City, One School District" law, I must ask the state legislature to slow down, take a deep breath, and not get carried away by the rush to get things least, not to the point that they are doing the wrong thing without recognizing the consequences of their actions.

While the legislature's desire to bring some resolution to this controversy is commendable, the haste with which the underlying issues are being addressed, discarded, and hardly debated clearly demonstrates that state senators neeed to disengage from the perilous path they have been rushing along these last few days of the 2006 legislative session.

Frankly, the haphazardous way in which certain senators are piecing together LB1024 is cause for great concern. That the state legislature would even consider so drastic a measure as splitting up Omaha Public Schools into three districts with the clock ticking and so little opportunity for public comment is incredibly disturbing.

That this action is being done in the name of "local control" of schools is even downright ludicrous and insulting - not a single Omaha resident has VOTED for a resolution, a state senator, or even a school board member running on such an agenda. Honestly, this plan has become a burdensome example of state control and state power no matter its supposed intentions to the contrary.

Under the time constraints and with the Education Committee's failure to come together under a single comprehensive proposal, state senators are simply biting off more than they can chew - doing a great disservice to themselves, the people of Omaha, and the rest of the important business that stands before them by undertaking this effort. The desire to do good is simply out-weighed by the enormous potential for evils....for which the students and families of Omaha will be the ones who suffer, perhaps for decades to come.

There is not the time to address this issue properly in the few days remaining of this session. It's unfortunate but true. My suggestion: move on and get back to work on the numerous issues that are no less important but are far less reaching in scope and risk. At this point, the Omaha School District fight is a black hole that could very well engulf everything else on the legislature's agenda. As such, it must be set aside.

That's not a call for inaction. It's a call to reason. This fight will be resolved one way or another - mechanisms (i.e. courts) are already in place to see to that. Though unlikely, compromise also remains a possibility. Who knows - the state senate's anarchistic approach to the controversy might be recognized as so obviously dangerous by all parties involved that they will realize this is an issue to resolve between themselves if they want to avert total disaster.

Of course, political pressure from the likes of Governor Heineman seek immediate resolution, but that's more than the body can provide in any acceptable form under the circumstances. Desiring action isn't enough. If Heineman is so insistent that the legislature take up this issue in full, he should announce his intention to call a special session where in it can be done right. Otherwise, let the cards fall where they may.

Because what's going down now is an ungodly mess so littered with legislative landmines that it's hard to imagine a single step forward ending in anything but tragedy for the students of Omaha, be they black or white, rich or poor. Take a time-out. Take a step back. Just don't take so many people's futures into your hands without being prepared for the consequences.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, now I'm in shock. I actually agree with you on this. No bill is better than a rushed bill without the long-term consequences debated and thought out.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once the teachers come back to school on Monday (OPS is on Spring Break) there will be hell to pay for some senators. If this passes, all the Omaha Senators better start looking for new jobs (except crazy Ernie lol).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in Omaha. I agree that the idea seems rushed, but I definitely feel dividing OPS into smaller districts would be advantageous to students. Funds in OPS are not divided evenly. If you don't agree with that statement, then spend a week shadowing students in different OPS schools. OPS is poorly managed and, in my opinion, too large. Their goal is not to desegregate the district, if it was then that goal could have been accomplished long ago. OPS needs to downsize, not enlarge. But then again, what do I know? I am only a teacher who works 60 to 70 hours a week, and puts my students needs first.

Blogger Hosh said...

I am the first one to say that OPS needs to be smaller, and I laugh everytime I see them crying on TV about the new bill. However, I do agree that this is a little rushed. In less than a week, you can't restructure anything like that. I do teach in a metro district (who got drug into the learning community BS), and love having a smaller class size.
I do think its funny that OPS and Omaha can hide behind close doors to plan takeovers of Elkhorn and neighboring schools, but once someone springs a plan on them, they whine about the injustice. That's what you get.

Blogger Dysalot said...

Well know that it wasn't put together in "less than a week" It was put togwether over a much longer time, and voted on in "less than a week." I do not kow how this will result, but to me I think it is kind of funny, how OPS's plan backfired. I think I will wait and see how things play out before I take a clear stance on one side of the issue.


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