The bill is the brainchild of Ernie Chambers, the only black in the state senate, who's apparently been hankering after black control of certain of Omaha school for a while. A move to absorb some white-majority schools within the Omaha district gave Chambers his chance.
Omaha school authorities and business leaders marketed the expansion under the slogan, "One City, One School District." The plan, the district said, would create a more equitable tax base and foster integration through magnet programs to be set up in largely white schools on Omaha's western edge that would attract minority students.The creation of an Hispanic-only district is a particularly interesting touch. Now that we're debating immigration policy, why not ensure that a large block of Spanish-speaking students remains isolated in its own district?
The district had no plans to renew busing, but some suburban parents feared that it might. The suburban districts rebelled, and the unicameral Legislature drew up a measure to blunt the district's expansion.
The bill contained provisions creating a "learning community" to include 11 school districts in the Omaha area operating with a common tax levy while maintaining current borders. It required districts to work together to promote voluntary integration.
But the legislation changed radically with a two-page amendment by Mr. Chambers that carved the Omaha schools into racially identifiable districts, a move he told his colleagues would allow black educators to control schools in black areas.