The state teachers union Wednesday criticized Gov. Pete Ricketts for repeatedly referring to Nebraska’s public schools as “government schools,” saying the use of the term was “divisive” and typical of “Beltway politics.”

“Government schools” is a term President Donald Trump used in his State of the Union speech in slamming what he called “failing government schools.”

“This is Nebraska, not Russia. They are called public schools for a reason,” said Jenni Benson, president of the 28,000-member Nebraska State Education Association, in a press release. “Nebraska has excellent, fiscally responsible public schools that are accountable to voters.”

Benson said that as a teacher she knows it is “wrong and purposefully misleading” to call Nebraska’s public schools “government schools.”

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The governor’s remarks came in an endorsement of a property tax reform bill, Legislative Bill 974, that would impose tougher spending caps on K-12 school spending.

The NSEA said school district spending growth is already limited to 2.5% a year. Ricketts and some senators, though, say that lid hasn’t been effective.

Ricketts’ spokesman, Taylor Gage, said Wednesday evening that any school funded from taxes can accurately be called a “government school.”

“Government is important, and the Governor believes government serves an important purpose,” Gage said.

He added that NSEA’s attack was “very revealing” in that both Ricketts and Trump support more choice in education, while the teachers union opposes it.

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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