Nebraska state Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, who sponsored LB 364, urged legislators to put opportunity ahead of special interests that have worked to prevent educational freedom.

Editor’s note: This powerful opinion piece from Ashley Elliott, a member of the 2019 cohort of the American Federation For Children’s Future Leadership Fellowship, appeared today on the Omaha World Herald. Elliott attended Victory Christian Academy in Lakeland on a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.

Nebraska State Sen. Michaela Cavanaugh of Omaha is a force to be reckoned with. She is the first woman to breastfeed her child on the floor of the Legislature and she introduced LB 709, which would create a safe nursing station in the Capitol. She is also spearheading LB 187 to expand the definition of sexual assault.

As a woman, I am in awe of Cavanaugh’s resilience and willingness to fight for social justice, especially in a male-dominated workplace. However, her recent vote in opposition to LB 364, a bill that would allow low-income students to attend a private school of their family’s choice via a tax credit scholarship, is an affront to poor kids.

During floor debate on April 28, Cavanaugh said, “The opportunity gap isn’t where you show up to school, it’s all the things that happen in your life before you even enter the school. It’s did you get to eat? Did you get breakfast? Did you get to brush your teeth? Did you get to go see your doctor, your pediatrician? Did you get your vaccinations? Did you have shoes? It’s raining out. Do your shoes have holes in them? Is your parent’s car working? Is the bus on time? Do you have heat? Do you have a home?”

I was born to drug addicts and adopted by my grandmother. She has been poor her whole life and so was I. If you want to hear about the opportunity gap, I can tell you.

It is wearing your bathing suit as underwear because you have no way to wash your clothes. It is physically fighting your siblings over the last bit of food. It is showering at your neighbors’ house because the electricity is off.

It is taking the city bus every weekend since you were 9 years old to go sell bracelets so you can pay the electricity bill. It is stealing toilet paper from school and tampons from Walmart because you have no money.

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