Nebraska StatePaper reports:
The Nebraska State Education Association said Tuesday it was glad that a judge blocked the breakup of the Omaha Public Schools along racial boundaries, and then called for the election of Governor Dave Heineman – the man who signed the OPS bill into law.
Heineman, a Republican, is overwhelmingly favored to defeat Democratic candidate David Hahn in November. Hahn has vehemently opposed the OPS measure, frequently criticizing Heineman for supporting it. The NSEA is a statewide union representing teachers.
“NSEA will put its political clout behind Governor Dave Heineman in the November 7 General Election,” the association proclaimed in a news release.
Hahn said he was outraged that the NSEA endorsed Heineman because “We are talking about a man who supported and signed into law a policy that made Nebraska look to the rest of the nation like a sanctuary for racism … a law intended to maintain segregation under the guise of neighborhood control of schools. It is unconstitutional, unworkable and guaranteed to raise local property taxes. It is disgraceful”....
In the statement endorsing Heineman, [NSEA President Jess] Wolf said it would be of particular importance to have “an open line of communication between NSEA and the governor's office to resolve issues around LB1024, which split the Omaha Public School district into three smaller districts … Resolving these issues in a manner that is acceptable to both OPS and our suburban districts is critical.”
"It's critically important to have a positive working relationship with the governor and the legislature to resolve these kinds of issues," said Wolf.
The only explanation needed for NSEA's decision is that it would rather make nice with Heineman than take a chance on Hahn and risk further offending the man expected to win in November.
NSEA's abandonment of its principles can probably be understood as a practical consideration - putting the short-term benefits of protecting its members from a potential political enemy before the long-term interests of the state, its schools, and its children. This continues an unfortunate trend by certain quarters of Nebraska Labor towards cozying up with Republican politicians who do not share their priorities for lack of faith in the Democratic alternative, particularly for state offices.
This example is particularly egregious only because of the high-profile controversy surrounding LB 1024. No voice has been more articulate or outspoken against this legislative disaster than that of David Hahn, who challenged the actions of both the legislature and Heineman as soon as Heineman signed it into law.
Alas, being right on the issues is not always enough. This is a blow to Hahn's campaign, but - even more unfortunate - this is a blow to the NSEAs credibility and to the principles they espouse.
Of course, Nebraskans from both political parties care deeply about the state's system of public education, and it's unlikely that Heineman would prove a total disaster to the short-term interests of the teachers union. But, if elected, his lack of vision and his failure to understand that Nebraska must embrace the future if it is to prosper in the 21st century would no doubt prove a sorry reminder of the Hahn campaign's promise.
At the very least, Heineman has made a weak announcement in opposition to the State Spending Lid (again, following Hahn's lead months after he should have originally done so). Had he not done so, there was no possible way the NSEA could have offered its endorsement. As is, NSEA should demand Heineman be far more public with his opposition to the State Spending Lid, as it is one of the greatest threats to public education this state has ever known. If Heineman will not lead the charge against this outrageous and destructive Constitutional Amendment, the NSEA has made a terrible blunder for which the students of Nebraska could suffer for years to come.
Change will not be possible in this state until organizations like the NSEA are willing to take a chance on candidates and on issues in which they actually believe. Until that day comes, they can expect one crisis after another as the fiscal bleeding and moral beatings continue in perpetuity.