The overwhelming approval of a $421 million Omaha Public Schools bond issue shows a level of public buy-in that should embolden district leaders to continue their focused work for students.
Some 60 percent of those who voted on the bond issue gave it a thumbs-up. They approved a record public investment in an urban school district that needed help after 15 years without a bond issue.
Superintendent Mark Evans was right to say that the public had placed great trust in OPS.
Now, district employees must respond to that trust by showing good judgment and execution in how they spend taxpayers’ money.
The career education center at Benson High School needs to be built and run well. Aging schools need to be repaired and replaced strategically, with the least disruption possible for students. New technology purchases need to enhance classroom learning, not distract from it. Steps to increase security need procedures to match.
This vote and how the district carries out the voters’ will are important. Omaha cannot afford to let its public school system slide into segregation and neglect. Places like Milwaukee, Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri, have seen students in poverty attending poorly supported city public schools while wealthier students attend private schools in the city or public schools in the suburbs.
In Omaha, good public schools are a deserving point of genuine civic pride. They seed the city’s quality of life, the caliber of its employees and its sense of community. They are a key recruitment tool for new businesses and business expansion. They are vital building blocks for our neighborhoods and our kids.
All reasons why Tuesday’s vote mattered.
The district’s dropout rate is at an all-time low; academic achievement scores are up; the high school graduation rate is growing. All positive signs.
If OPS continues doing a good job on what matters — working with kids, helping them learn, improving test scores, improving behaviors and identifying student strengths and opportunities — the district will maintain the public’s trust.
On Tuesday, Nebraska’s largest school district celebrated a needed victory. For $7.50 a month on a $150,000 home, residents said clearly that we still care deeply about our public schools.
And that’s a good thing for our city.