Central Nebraskans to Deliberate on State’s Educational Standards and Funding

Dr. Peter Longo
professor and chair of political science, 308.865.8039

What should every student in Nebraska learn? How should we pay for education in our state? How should student performance be measured? The multiple answers to these and other questions are testing Nebraska’s education policy makers, school administrators, teachers and parents.

On Monday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. CT, more than 100 randomly-selected residents from Adams, Buffalo, Dawson, Hall, Kearney and Phelps counties in central Nebraska will convene on the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) campus to address these and other questions as they participate in an important citizen deliberation about K-12 educational issues. Participants will also question and provide input to many of the state’s educational leaders who are part of a panel discussion that follows the citizen discussion. Several members of the Legislature’s Education Committee will also be on hand to listen to comments from citizens and answer their  questions.

NET Television will tape the UNK event and provide highlights of the discussions to PBS for a national program, “By the People” airing Thursday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. CT on NET1. NET will also produce a local program, “Your Schools: A Nebraska Connects Special” scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. CT on NET1.

NET Television is one of several Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations selected to host these discussions as part of the “By The People” project. “By the People” is a local-national initiative of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions that is designed to engage local citizens in the political process. More than 1,000 Americans in communities around the country will join together in common deliberation about either education or health care.

There are a variety of issues critical to the structure and performance of Nebraska public schools. Federal achievement standards and rigorous state standards are top-of-mind as educators consider what material should be presented to students and how decisions about the curriculum should be made. There are also questions about how to equitably fund educational services, as well as emotional discussion about the viability of rural schools, school mergers and consolidation.

Kearney is one of 16 communities across the country to participate at the local level in these national discussions about domestic issues. This is the second time that UNK has hosted a “By the People” discussion in collaboration with NET Television and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Public Policy Center. Other partners are several UNK departments, including the Chancellor’s office, the College of Education and the Department of Political Science.

The discussions will end with a “Deliberative Poll®” in which citizens will offer their opinions after they have had a chance to discuss the issues. The Public Policy Center will be involved in the compilation of responses from the Central Nebraska residents.

NET1 is part of NET Television, a service of NET (Nebraska Educational Telecommunications). Complete program schedules are available online at net Nebraska.org.