By Kate Mather, The Associated Press lincoln Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest publicly-funded public schools in Lincoln, Neb., has a reputation as a “tough on crime” school.
Its high school graduation rate is the highest in the state and it offers a full-day kindergarten to grade 8 curriculum.
But students from some of the state’s poorest communities have faced heightened challenges.
About two-thirds of Lincoln Public School students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
The school’s student body is also over-represented by students of color, with nearly half of students from low-income families.
LESO, the Omaha Public Schools district that serves Lincoln, recently had a special session of its school board to consider a proposal to open its doors to students with special needs.
Under the proposal, students with intellectual disabilities and students with learning disabilities would be eligible to attend the district’s special education school.
Lincoln Public Schools says it is looking into whether the proposal is consistent with Nebraska’s education law and would make sense for the district.
But some community advocates, including Lincoln Public Public School Board member James Kopp, said the school is not meeting its own needs.
Kopp said the district has been using a “soft approach” to its special education needs, but that it would consider an option for those students who need extra help.
“I do not know if that is the right way to address these issues,” he said.
“There are children who need more support, more resources, more services.”
Kopp is the chair of the Lincoln Education Association, a local advocacy group that supports special education students.
The group said it is still reviewing the proposal and could not respond to specific questions about whether it supports the district opening up its special ed program.
“We’re waiting to see what they are going to do, but we support the process,” said Kristin O’Brien, an associate education director at the nonprofit Nebraska Education Association.
“But it’s not a solution we think is good for our students.”
O’Briens group is the lead sponsor of the Nebraska Community School Improvement Act, which would allow the state to provide free or discounted lunches to all students in schools that receive state funding.
That legislation, which was introduced last year, passed in the House and would have allowed schools to open their doors to special education children if they meet certain criteria.
O’Dell says the legislation would make it easier for schools to provide special education programs.
It would allow schools to offer a full day kindergarten curriculum to students from public and low-performing schools, and it would allow students who have special needs to receive the special education they need.
The bill would also allow special education teachers to provide the same services as other teachers to students in special education classes.
But it has been a contentious issue at the Lincoln Public schools, where Kopp and other school board members say students are struggling to meet the districts standards and its own requirements for special education.
The board has been considering several options, including a proposal from the Nebraska Department of Education, which includes the Lincoln school district, to open up special ed programs in some schools, Kopp’s office said.
O.P.S. officials said the proposal could mean more flexibility in special ed, but said the decision would be up to the board.
The Lincoln Public school district has already opened its special-ed programs in schools with high dropout rates.
The district is also working with the Omaha Community School Board to make it available to students who qualify, and O’Wade said the new proposal could give some students more flexibility.
“What it’s going to mean is it will allow us to have more flexibility to address some of our special needs students,” he told the AP.
If Lincoln Public wants to change its policies, then it should follow state law and the state needs to have a public school with a high graduation rate, Koff said.