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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

February 18, 2019

Omaha World Herald. February 13, 2019

Nebraska should give a needed boost to civics education

Our country is stronger and healthier when its citizens, across lines of party and ideology, have a basic knowledge of our government and civic principles fundamental to a free society. Although Americans shouldn’t be expected to be experts in such matters, surveys unfortunately indicate that a considerable portion of the population falls well short in understanding the fundamentals.

Only 32 percent of respondents could name all three branches of governments in a 2018 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Twenty-seven percent incorrectly said the Constitution allows a president to ignore a Supreme Court ruling if the president chooses to. In a survey commissioned by C-SPAN, a majority of respondents — 57 percent — couldn’t name any of the members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Nebraska Legislature has considered, but failed to give final approval to, various proposals in recent years to strengthen civics education in the state. The latest effort, Legislative Bill 399, deserves support from lawmakers. The bill, by State Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, aims to heightens the state’s emphasis on civics education while making sensible adjustments to a 1949 law on Nebraska civics requirements.

The intent isn’t to slight Nebraska’s social studies teachers but, rather, to promote a concerted statewide effort to address the problem shown by the discouraging national survey results on Americans’ civics knowledge.

LB 399 would ensure that each school district’s curriculum aligns with state social studies standards and “teaches and assesses foundational knowledge in civics, history, economics, financial literacy and geography.” Under the bill, the social studies curriculum would include multicultural topics in U.S. history — fitting for an increasingly diverse Nebraska population — and would instruct students in the “dangers and fallacies of forms of government that restrict individual freedoms or possess antidemocratic ideals such as, but not limited to, Nazism and communism.”

That last provision is part of the 1949 state law requiring instruction in “Americanism” and mandating a committee in each school district to review local curriculum. Slama’s bill would rename them as “American Civics” committees and eliminate the 1949 provision making it a misdemeanor for educators to violate the law.

Lawmakers would do well to eliminate part of LB 399: its proposed requirement that public schools administer the same civics test that immigrants take for citizenship. The Nebraska State Board of Education, which otherwise indicated it has no problem with the bill, voted 8-0 to oppose the legislation’s naturalization-test provision, saying it would needlessly require too much rote memorization and intrude too much on the prerogatives by the State Board of Education’s authority.

In the early years of our country, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.” Putting a spotlight on civics education through Slama’s proposal would help Nebraska fulfill Jefferson’s vision of a nation properly informed of its principles and ideals.

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Lincoln Journal Star. February 15, 2019

Adding animal conservation plates benefits state’s wildlife

Between 50 and 60 mountain lions are estimated to roam northwest Nebraska’s Pine Ridge area.

In comparison, tens of thousands of license plates espousing mountain lion conservation prowl every corner of the Cornhusker State. But the popular plates could soon have some company - and competition.

Bills before the Nebraska Legislature propose adding ornate box turtles, sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep and cutthroat trout to the license plate offerings. Given the success of the mountain lion plate and the worthy cause it funds, expanding Nebraskans’ choices will help some of the state’s most iconic species.

Venango Sen. Dan Hughes - who introduced one such bill - noted that the mountain lion conservation plates generated $225,000 for the Game and Parks Commission, money that benefits education and programming. Additional animals should, in theory, bring in additional revenue.

A low price point - only $5 extra for alpha-numeric plates - and dissatisfaction with Nebraska’s plaintive, standard sower plates no doubt powered sales of those displaying the cougar.

Beyond the funds raised, though, the exposure and awareness created for these animals is invaluable.

No doubt the proliferation of mountain lion plates galvanized opposition to the recently approved hunting season for the creatures. If additional animals receive statewide exposure, perhaps they’d also find previously untapped support and advocacy from Nebraskans.

The benefits of specialty plates, first realized by those promoting cougar conservation, can and should be expanded to other species. When it comes to growing awareness and education of Nebraska animals, we say the more, the merrier.

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McCook Daily Gazette. February 14, 2019

‘Silicon Prairie’ gets a boost from Google’s plans

The announcement by Google was short on details but long on potential for the Cornhusker state.

The company said it was spending $13 billion on new and expanded data centers, including one in Nebraska. Actually, a map showed two spots in the Omaha area, but again, details were short.

“Nebraska has built a reputation for itself as the Silicon Prairie and a hub for tech companies, startups and entrepreneurs,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts in reaction to the news. “Today’s announcement from Google underscores that reputation and will bring great opportunities for Nebraskans. We appreciate the work of all the partners who teamed up to successfully promote Nebraska as the destination for Google’s next investment.”

The Omaha World-Herald reported in December that a large data center project called “Project Wizard” would be located on a 275-acre site northwest of Highway 50 and Schram Road in Sarpy County.

It’s already home to computer farms for Facebook and Travelers Insurance, Yahoo is nearby and Council Bluffs already has two Google data centers.

The Nebraska Data Centers hub in Omaha points out many advantages to locating such facilities in Nebraska, including central location for quick travel from either coast, cheap, plentiful, reliable power free from disruptions like hurricanes or earthquakes, low cost of real estate, a stable economy, location on the original east-west fiber backbone and relatively low cost of living.

But there are political considerations as well, as Google and other tech giants look to expand into cloud-computing while facing increasing privacy concerns.

Wednesday’s announcement that it would spend $13 billion and employ “tens of thousands” of full-time workers, coupled with its expansion into 24 states by the end of the year, will help expand its political influence in red states as well as its traditional blue power base.

Whatever its long-term plans and motives, Google’s investment in the home turf of the Ricketts and Buffett families can’t hurt.

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