Omaha Schools to Be Split by Race

Scott Bauer, AP, April 14, 2006

LINCOLN, Neb.—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, said the plan would give minorities control over their own school board and ensure that their children are not “shortchanged” in favor of white youngsters.

Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, signed the measure into law.

Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha decried the bill, which passed 31-16.

“We will go down in history as one of the first states in 20 years to set race relations back,” the Democrat said.

“History will not, and should not, judge us kindly,” said Democratic Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.

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.

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

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