As a good Son of Nebraska, I was horrified to learn of the new law passed last Thursday by the Nebraska Unicameral to racially divide — or let’s call it “State Sponsored Vivisection by Race” — the Omaha Public Schools into three distinct Racial districts: White, Black and Hispanic. The 45,000 student Omaha school system is 46% White, 31% Black, 20% Hispanic and 3% Asian or American Indian.

Those numbers are hardly equal but now they are separate. Is the year 1896 or 2006? Is Plessy v. Ferguson law of the land or is Brown v. The Board of Education the law?

I was especially disappointed to learn radical Nebraska State Senator Ernest Chambers — the first and only Black man in the Unicameral and representing District 11 in Omaha for 35 years — was a major force behind the new “Omaha Public Schools Segregation Law” that recalls the dark days of our nation when some believed separate drinking fountains for “coloreds” and “whites” provided equal access to the same water supply.

We all know separate drinking fountains were not about the water just as we all know the Omaha Public Schools Redistricting is not about the best interests of the students. I grew up admiring Ernest Chambers and for a Pasty-White Boy in Lily-White Nebraska — that was a dangerous proposition because Senator Chambers was not well-liked by the majority of Nebraskans. Many said — never to his face or in public — Senator Chambers was “uppity” and he “didn’t know his place” and he “dressed ghetto.” He was usually called “Ernie” in a tone that was condescending and not friendly and rarely “Ernest” and almost never, “Senator Chambers.”

There were other daggers thrown at Senator Chambers’ back I will not repeat here because they were racial epithets intended to poke and pierce. Senator Chambers was a wild man with a higher spirit in the midst of a White and Republican and Conservative legislature. He was the thorn in the lion’s paw.

He was the last wild stallion gamboling along the Plains who refused to be lassoed or tamed by common men. He was a man on a higher mission with a better calling than most and he knew he was caught in a majority of ideas he did not share. Senator Chambers spoke the truth of who he was and what he knew. He was a Black Man in Nebraska. He was proud in a way that did not diminish others.

In 1983 Senator Chambers argued all the way to the United States Supreme Court that a chaplain should not be paid by the State of Nebraska to perform a daily prayer before the Unicameral started each session because it violated the separation between church and state. He lost the case in court but he won a greater spiritual victory for standing up for the right cause in the wrong condition.

Senator Chambers — born in 1937 and elected to the Unicameral in 1970 and re-elected in 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004
— was so effective and so dangerous to the White majority that in 2000 Nebraskans voted 56% in favor of a constitutional amendment to limit a senator to only two consecutive terms. The only way the Majority could diminish Senator Chambers’ voice and silence his vision was to amend the state constitution to throw him out of office:

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said Friday he has an attorney crafting a lawsuit designed to overturn the state’s term limit law in time to keep 20 of the 49 state senators from having to leave after next year. Chambers has served 35 years, more than any other senator, but is not among the first wave of senators scheduled to leave the Capitol in 2006.

Growing up in Lincoln I often visited the Unicameral just to watch Senator Chambers stand and speak and shake his fist at the unruly establishment. He was a muscled icon for human admiration and strong and deep-voiced advocate for the downtrodden.

He always dressed in a short-sleeved sweatshirt even when the legislature was in session. He stuck out and he knew it and he recognized the power in being different and antithetical.

Now, it seems the only thing Senator Chambers has been able to keep alive over the last 20 years is his short-sleeved sweatshirt.

The muscles have diminished into pockets of flab. His voice is withered. His steam of angry righteous fire has been extinguished. Those losses are the common hallmarks of aging and of ordinary men — but they are also the harbingers of something more evil and more potently ethereal because they point to a tiring of the good fight, acquiescence to bad ideals and a resignation to a perpetuation of the status quo.

Senator Chambers has become what those who knew him as a squeaky wheel could never imagine: A quiet cog in the machine. His support of the Omaha Public Schools Segregation Law suggests he is out to serve only his own and his own self-interests instead of the overall greater good that most men fall on their knees to avoid confronting. The argument for the re-districting of the Omaha Public Schools — as promoted by Senator Chambers — suggests the new districts reflect those who live there and each district will govern its own.

Blacks will make decisions for Blacks. Whites for Whites. Hispanics for Hispanics. Those who share Senator Chambers’ view also argue all districts will get equal funding and White administrators won’t be making decisions for Black students.

Senator Chambers also argues since Omaha doesn’t require busing to integrate the schools any longer, the new re-districting plan merely confirms current housing patterns and neighborhoods where children are already required to attend schools closest to their homes. Senator Chambers claims there “is no intent to create segregation” because the districts are already segregated. That single statement is a self-repudiation of a career, of a mission, and of a people who look to Senator Chambers for guidance and inspiration.

I am disappointed in Senator Chambers and his willingness to give in to the current status quo because the present racial divide in Omaha is wrong. Maybe he got tired of the good fight. Maybe the Term Limits amendment hurt him at the core of who he was more than we know. Good men can become weak and lose their way.

I am asking Senator Chambers to rise up and address the real issue at stake and that is the pro forma lack of racial integration in Omaha and the greater state of Nebraska and tell us what, after 35 years of service, he has done to heal that bleeding sore and how does his vivisection of the Omaha Public Schools remedy that racial divide? Senator Chambers must not lead us into the future by validating present wrongs. Senator Chambers must lead us into the future by setting right the errors of history that now form the current misfortune of the Omaha Public Schools re-districting scheme.

The Associated Press reports Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, Omaha Public Schools Superintendent John Mackiel and state Senators Gwen Howard and Pat Bourne — all White — are vehemently opposed to the new Omaha Public Schools Segregation Law and are fighting it with the spirit and vigor that used to be the hallmark of Senator Chambers’ Unicameral crusades. Bruning: “The law violates Nebraska’s equal-protection clauses and is unconstitutional.” Mackiel: “There simply has never been an anti-city school victory anywhere in this nation.

This law will be no exception.” Senator Howard: “History will now, and should not, judge us kindly.” Senator Bourne: “We will go down in history as one of the first states in 20 years to set race relations back.” Bruning, Mackiel, Howard and Bourne are right. Senator Chambers is wrong.

. . .The object of the [Fourteenth] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.

Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power. . . .

You could cut that quote from 1896 and paste it into the Omaha Public Schools Segregation Law in 2006 because they are both strangely arguing the same incredible, awful, point: Separate but Equal.

That quote was from the majority decision in the United States Supreme Court case concerning Plessy v. Ferguson and those words served as the organizing legal justification for racial segregation for over 50 years. Perhaps Senator Chambers can find a quiet moment to reflect on the majority decision Brown v. Board of Education that in 1954 righted the wrongs of Plessy:

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.

Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

1896 — Plessy v. Ferguson 1954 — Brown v. Board of Education 2006 — Omaha Public Schools Re-Districting Are we forever doomed to a 50 year cycle of racially falling backward, socially progressing forward and then racially falling backward all over again? When will we begin to allow our wrongs to teach us?

The great state of Nebraska must do the right thing and overturn the Omaha Public Schools Segregation Law and work on re-integrating the city — and the entire state — into multi-cultural neighborhoods so no one can ever again draw lines around racial capsules and call them equal because those with the greatest resources and the largest opportunities and the biggest line-drawing-pencil, can enhance their racial divide faster and better than other competing racial clusters and that only leads to deeper dissatisfaction and harsher separation and it rips us away from each other with a cultural mandate ruled by Race instead of bringing us together as citizens under a common flag.

 Nebraska State Flag

The Nebraska state motto is “Equality Before the Law” and it is time to once again give that motto meaning in the context of the Omaha Public Schools.

40 Comments

  1. This is definitely strange. What’s going on in Nebraska? I guess the Blacks in Omaha don’t know their history or know how getting out of segregation in this country once meant biting dogs and high-pressure fire hoses aimed at the backs of Black children and nooses around the necks of fathers and marches and bullets aimed from Whites with guns.

  2. In deeper reading on this matter, Karvain, it looks like this segregation has been pitched to the Black community in Omaha as a Black Pride issue: Sure you’re cordoned off from the other Races, but you’re proud of what you can do and where you live and you can now run your own lives and make your own decisions.
    That may be fine for the moment but it is a condemnation in the long run because the longer the separation and the longer the removal the faster the repression by Race doesn’t taste as bitter because the one selling you the slurry is your own color.

  3. Where is the wisdom in this matter? It can’t just can be white people that stand up to be counted in the outrage. Those who are being sold the slurry need to stop swallowing.

  4. We all have our betrayers but when it looks like the leader of the fight and the commander of the battle has turned over with no reason or rhyme then we have to look elsewhere for the cause.
    We must wonder what might happen if Term Limits remain the law. We must look into future profits. We must ask if the new school districts in Omaha will need leadership and think where they might find it.
    We have to wonder if the Black district will need a visionary and wise man who, at the end of one career, spun one opportunity into another and turned his eyes to the earth instead of his heart to the sky and planted his feet for profit when he used to fly on the breeze?

  5. I think I have something to share here.
    One of my friends divulged something to me a few days back. She is an Indian (I mean Asian Indian, not American Indian), came here to study about 3 years ago. She told me she applied for couple of graduate assistantship positions in the University where she joined; one of them was in Multicultural Student Service. When the result came out she saw she didn’t get one that was in the Multicultural department, but got the other one in Student Advisement Center. She told me both these departments were interconnected and they used to attend meetings together and somehow she managed to become a friend to one of the representatives from Multicultural Student Service.
    Here comes the shock….. she came to know that she was not hired in that department because she didn’t belong to any of the three groups that Multicultural department supposed to represent – Hmong, African/ Native American and Hispanic. Moreover, there was another logic that as she doesn’t belong to any of that group – she won’t be able to understand them and the students won’t feel comfortable to work with her either.
    My friend didn’t care – because she was capable enough to manage another assistantship on her own – but her question was “is this bias doing any good to those specific groups of students? What will happen when they will graduate and land in the real work world? Who will be their savior?”

  6. I always say “India Indians” when I don’t mean Native Americans — now I know to use “Asian Indians” instead and I thank you for the wonderful MULTICULTURAL CORRECTION!
    I can appreciate the political forces at play in your example, Katha. I agree the decision to void the application of your friend because she was not “the right culture” to work in “the Multicultural Center” was cruel and shortsighted and I bet she was never supposed to know the real reason she wasn’t selected!
    :mrgreen:
    When money and power combine with political correctness you end up with a mishmash of “higher intent” that helps no one and suffocates everyone. Universities are famous for serving that kind of gruel every day in college cafeterias, all departments and every onsite student services center!
    It is difficult limiting ethnic nomenclature to employing only the “correct” cultures found in the “Multicultural Center” you name in your example — which, BTW, should be renamed the “Hmong, African/Native American and Hispanic ONLY Multicultural Center.”
    In the long run it is a terribly sad scenario because that philosophy never works to protect students from inappropriate “exposure” to other ethnicities or the “wrong kind” of extra-cultural exposure and that only makes them weaker and left wondering about the true effects of a real multicultural nation and a truly unilateral world.

  7. You are correct, she was not supposed to know it – 😀
    The departmental staff was a little ticked off for some reason and disclosed the truth.
    This typical coinage “Asian Indian” was discovered by my friend too, according to her – “…except few people from bigger cities everybody here gets shocked when I say ‘I am an Indian’, and they exclaim ‘but you don’t look like one!’ – so I call myself an Asian Indian.”
    I truly agree with you, it’s like blindfolding our own children and make them see only those we want them to see. We will only do it if we are not confident enough to rely on their judgment, and it shows our own weakness of the way we raised them – tragic!

  8. Here’s an interesting story about racial stereotyping that involves an Asian-Indian and a MP3 player with the Clash’s London Calling and Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.

    Security staff at a British airport stopped a businessman from catching a flight because the songs he had asked a taxi driver to play on the car stereo made the driver suspicious, police said.
    Harraj Mann, who is of Indian origin, had the songs stored on an MP3 player, which the cab was equipped to play on its stereo.

    When we don’t get to know each other, people start to think all sorts of wacky and crazy things.

  9. Interestingly enough, I had somewhat similar experience while traveling here from home. I was stopped at the baggage checking point before boarding the flight because the detector started beeping for some “unknown” reason……
    And I had no clue in the world what was there in my bag! I started almost hallucinating – “Did somebody put something in there which I was not aware of? Did someone exchange the bag? [result of seeing too much thriller I guess!] I emptied the bag as per the instruction, and fortunately one of the officials recognized the “culprit” – I put some sandalwood cubes in my bags and somehow the detector didn’t like it. I had to part with it – happily or not – that is a different story!

  10. Hi Chris!
    Yikes! I’m sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well. I hope it is just the flu, but not the Avian Flu!
    Yes, Senator Chambers’ eagerness to ginny the bill through is just plain odd based on his past public beliefs and behavior.
    I agree keeping people apart from each other only adds mystery and menace to the unknown. If we know our neighbors — be them people or states or other countries — then we risk less and trust more by default. It is easier to demonize that which is unfamiliar.
    I like the idea of “Race Mixing” and American will be a much better place when everyone has a light tan skin color and you can’t tell their culture or ethnicity just by looking at skin color or judging the shape of the eye or analyzing the slope of the nose.

  11. I am happy the department stood up for the student, Katha, and got to the rotting root of what was troubling the house. The truth, even when bitter and spiteful, is freeing and your friend knows it was them and not her that failed the test of the human spirit.
    I agree blindfolds are prisons and offer no protection from harm except from the blinding light of the shining truth. It is our obligation to teach our children and each other that, even if blinding, the truth will still comfort you in the darkness.

  12. Chris!
    I heard about that story and after the awfulness wore off I felt the cabbie was having a terrible reaction to the song choices and not necessarily the guy in his cab!
    Seriously… when we begin to judge others by their taste in music we know Homeland Security and the Patriot Act and other governmental paranoias have deeply wounded the American psyche in a really bad way. Soon just a “look” will be enough to brand someone a terrorist against the state and guarantee imprisonment for “routine interrogation.”

  13. Interesting question – I never thought about it that way!
    I was scared to death [they started interrogating me before even emptying my bag….as if it will burst if someone touches it!!!]; anxious enough in case I miss the flight and I wanted to get out of that chaos as fast as I can…..
    They started seeing me as a potential terrorist I guess!

  14. Heya Katha!
    That’s such a bizarre story! I did a web search on “sandalwood” and “airport detectors” and other variations and I couldn’t find anything remotely related to your experience that would suggest an alarm would be set off by your cubes. What in sandalwood cubes would set off a security detector? I wonder if they made that up in order to question you because of your suspicious nature.
    😉

  15. I don’t know it either – 😀
    I thought I was travelling as per the guideline and no where it was said that I couldn’t carry sandalwood – and that’s why I was carrying it –
    May be the detector didn’t like me for some reason!

  16. They asked me if I was carrying anything I knew that helped the detector go off….any knife/blade/ nail clipper/fork/ incense….. etc…
    I answered in the negative. Then they asked me to open the bag – I did, I emptied it – they checked the bag separately, and then declared they are going to keep those cubes –
    I packed my bag and ran.

  17. It just doesn’t make sense, Katha!
    Unless… that is… the detector is sniffing for things other than weapons!
    I did a search with a different intent: “illegal sandalwood airport export india” and this popped up:
    This ban also includes wood sand wood products including logs, timber, stumps, roots bark, chip, powder, flakes dust, pulp and charcoal. However, sawn timber made exclusively out of imported logs teak/ timber are exempted subject to conditions. Also, export of sandalwood in any form, excluding finished handicrafts and machine-finished products is prohibited.
    http://www.magical-india.com/TravelTips/TravelTips1.asp
    I thought maybe your royal last name might have been a reason to give you a hard time, but maybe those machines are set to sniff out illegal exporting of goods in addition to weapons.

  18. Back home we use very small sandalwood cubes as wardrobe freshner, most of the time those are not even genuine but smell like sandal. I was carrying some of those which I believe gave the detector a hard time along with me.

  19. Those cubes couldn’t even pay 1/10th of my school fee – forget about financing the whole thing…..
    But I am thrilled that people can think me an illegal exporter…. ;D

  20. As a former Omahan (now residing in Charlotte, NC) I found this whole fiasco absurd. I grew uo admiring AND hating Ernie Chambers (he was at his worst during the racial rioting)he stood up to every challenge but now it seems he has become senile or his soul has been purchased by the politico’s. One question that was not clear, is the White, Republican District 66 included (if not, why not? Obvious) and what about the Catholic schools?
    The Charlotte/Mecklenburg school district has critics that think the district should be divided (much like Omaha) but NOT upon racial lines, the division proposed would be based more on natuaral geographical boundries. Of course there would be some areas that would be mostly White and some that would be predominately Black, but there are no racial undercurrents here as there seemed to be in Omaha. I hope that the new redistricting is challenged in the courts. Were I still there I would start the petitions myself.

  21. Hi Rich!
    I thank you for your fascinating comment on the problem in Omaha. I think you make some excellent points.
    I watched the interview with Senator Chambers on MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson show a couple of days ago and he was introduced as “The Angriest Black Man in Nebraska” and I thought that was rather tasteless and perfunctory. He was as calm and intelligent as ever.
    Senator Chambers stood by his claim his plan is not state sponsored segregation but it just confirms the naturally drawn school districts already in place. I kept wondering why he had not done anything else in the last 35 years to resolve the racial divide in Omaha. He said bussing students didn’t work and will never work — but why is the only answer to the problem to legally segregate the Races in Omaha?

  22. For days now, I have been reading and seeing what others from outside of Nebraska were talking about relating to this issue. I have been embroiled in this thing from the very beginning back in June 2005. There is probably some background that needs to be understood so that you can see what transpired. I sent the following to a teacher friend out of state, so please ask if you need clarification – or e-mail me at momandallyson@yahoo.com
    “City is set up with one city district, and multiple other districts surrounding it. Most of these districts were all once a part of independent towns that eventually were absorbed into the city of Omaha, but the school districts were left alone. Forced bussing started in the 70’s and the infamous white flight helped the city eventually grow further south and west, when the original city planners felt the city should grow north (way more land).
    In June, the OPS district stated they had uncovered an unkown law from 1891. This law stated that a city should only be comprised of one Class 3 district (which OPS is). Law was vague and doesn’t say anything about more there being other districts. So using this law, they stated they would be taking over all the schools that were in the city but not part of their system. As such, if a neighborhood was annexed into the city at a later time, that neighborhood would then become a part of the city system wreaking havoc with the remaining districts. Basically the district (Millard Public Schools) we live in has 20000 kids, and when we figured it out they would get 21 of our 31 schools, 2/3 of our tax base and half of our kids. We would still have 10000 kids to educate in schools that had a capacity of 6700, and only 1/3 of our tax base – making us the poorest district in the state. First we were told by OPS, deal with it, its the law, then the cry from OPS was that this was about them not having enough money to educate their kids. When we showed documentation that their district received more dollars per child than the suburban districts, and they spent less on actual education than even the state average, the cry became, well we are segregated and everyone has a responsibility in that.
    This ultimately went to the state legislature and last week they debated a bill that would freeze all boundaries as they stood now, and require the 11 school districts in two counties to form a learning community board that would oversee tax collection and allocation, integration and opening “centers of excellence academies’ for gifted and poverty students. Any kid could attend any school in any district within this community as long as there was room. And state aid kicked in a whopping amount. A few years ago, OPS had sued the state of Nebraska stating their state aid formula wasn’t fair to them. Only a handful of districts participated in this lawsuit, which they lost. Let’s also state for the record that John Mackiel – as superintendent is extremely well paid, and OPS has a large beuaracracy that sucks money away from education.
    Well then the “big” thing happened. The only black state senator we have – who represents the predominantly black community of Omaha suggested that OPS (which has 45000 students) be broken into 3 smaller districts. His reasoning was this would give people more local control, black people could be in leadership for black schools, hispanics the same etc. He drew the lines on the district map based on feeder schools to the high schools – with at least two high schools in every district. This passed overwhelmingly. But let me tell you why it passed overwhelmingly. For months, OPS had slammed this “law” down the suburban districts throats, accused those who live in suburbs as being racists etc. They refused to back down in any way to open negotiations among the superintendents. When the Unicameral got involved, the education committee went to all parties and asked what was necessary in order to come to a conclusion on this. Suburban schools budged, said they could accept a learning community concept, made other concessions to their tax levies etc. OPS refused to come to the table. Two weeks before the end of the session, Sen Raikes (head of the educaiton committee) threw up his hands in digust to a comment that Mackiel made – “nonaction by the legislature in this issue speaks volumes.” Basically the unicameral was overjoyed to “stick it” to OPS. Hoping that passing something so extreme would lead them to start talking about how they could avoid this happening to them.
    Here is what would have happened if OPS’s original proposal of “One City One School District” would have happened. We don’t live in the city limits, and our daughters school is in the city. We can never become a part of the city because the city cannot cross over county lines and we are in a separate county. So we didn’t know where she would go to school, how overcrowded it would be and all. Teachers would have had to reapply for new jobs, and state aid would have kicked in for three school districts with ever changing boundaries. As the city would annex new property, the school would have been able to take over the neighborhood and kids would have been changing schools etc.
    Please feel free to ask any and all questions. I want peopel to know what is really going on here.

  23. I will try and make this simple. I looked for a map that would show it, but couldn’t find one. Omaha is situated in Douglas County, but when the city grew, it grew more south and west instead of to the north of the county. Eventually it hit the county line of Sarpy county. The city cannot grow across the county line, so living in Sarpy county is a very attractive option for a lot of poeple who like the benefits of the city, but want to stay in the suburbs. The school district I am a part of, Millard, was once an independent town that was annexed by Omaha as a whole in 1971. The school district was left to function on its own. School district boundaries were agreed upon years ago and they have never changed. I only live one block over into the other county.
    I also send my daughter to a public Monetssori school. We are one of only a small number of school districts to offer Montessori as an option for our kids.

  24. Tricia, I never understood why OPS was allowed to build schools in Sarpy county. I felt that Bellevue, Papillion-La Vista even Springfield should have that (right) responsibility. Now that Omaha reaches Elkhorn and Waterloo what happens to their schools? Will they become part of the “new” OPS districts? Can Valley be far behind?
    David, Ernie (for a couple of decades) was called the “Angriest Black man in Nebraska” and I might add, it was justified but that was part of the loving/hating him. He was very passionate about some things, getting rid of the death penalty was probably his biggest push.

  25. Yes it is a huge mess. We’ll need the luck!
    Rich – according to what I found out months ago, Bellevue had the need for schools, and couldn’t build them, so there was an agreement made between OPS and Bellevue to take over Bryan High School and the schools that feed into them. That is why a portion of OPS exisits across county lines. When this started, Bellevue jumped on board with OPS, they have been fighting Papillion LaVista in court over two elementary schools they want, and they want their schools back from OPS. Of course, Bellevue receives so much of their funding from the federal government because of the base, so they really don’t have a huge fight in this.
    In 2004 Valley and Waterloo merged districts to save money. It was costing about $12K per student in their districts. That was a hard one for them, but they are in a school district now called Douglas County West.
    With the One City One School District plan that OPS proposed over the summer, no one would have been safe, including district 66, Ralston, Elkhorn, Bennington, and Gretna, since all of their districts have at least a portion in Douglas County. Since the city wanted to annex Elkhorn, OPS decided timing was right to make their move. They specifically targeted Millard and Ralston, but told Elkhorn that once they were annexed by the city they would be taken over. There is a separate state law protecting District 66, which is a school district right in the center of Omaha, but we knew they would be targeted as well. They are easily one of the most property tax rich districts in the area.
    With this Learning Community – which is a concept that I have warmed up to, all districts in Douglas and Sarpy county would belong. Each district would have one elected school board member serve on the learning community board having one vote each.

  26. Loved the photos, those Cottonwoods were terrible when trying to fisg in ones favorite pond. The state is rich in history.
    NBC Nightly News featured the school issue last night.

  27. Hey Rich!
    Thanks for the kind comment. It means a lot coming from you.
    Yes, fishing was tough in the midst of Cottonwoods!
    I missed the NBC report. I’ll have to see if I can locate it somewhere. Thanks for the heads up!

  28. You missed the point that Senator Chambers was raising. In a very complex (an mildly cynical) way that is beyond the comprehension of most well-meaning white people, with this proposal Ernie successfully demonstrated two things:
    1. The Nebraska State Unicameral is filled with racist, bigoted whites whose supposed “conservativism” is simply a cloak for their belief in the power of Jim Crow to make themselves a buck;
    2. The local and national conversation about the role of race in our society must be reinvigorated through serious dialogues that challenge the assumptions that (1) the Civil Rights movement is over, and (2) integration is finished.
    What many people who are not from Omaha don’t know is that the city is still, after almost 100 years, a segregated community. North Omaha, the district Ernie represents, is a predominately African American community. The students there largely fail to graduate from Omaha’s high schools. There was no serious dialogue in Nebraska addressing that reality until Chambers’ proposal.
    Eager to “move forward” and sweep the situation under the rug, many legislators supported the proposal. In doing so they did not reveal their adoration for Chambers – they hate the man. Instead they showed their own true colors, which are orange with a white a blue X running across.
    Nebraska sucks, and Ernie Chambers is still a hero – even more so – for what he has done for African Americans, North Omaha, the state, and the country. Thanks Senator.