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Friday, April 14, 20061145033100

The End of Omaha Public Schools

"Omaha Schools Split Along Race Lines," by Scott Bauer, Associated Press, 13 April 2006, http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=1841310 (hat-tip: The Corner).

"Omaha Public Schools," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Apr 2006, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Omaha_Public_Schools&oldid=48371184..

"Winter came to Omaha
It left us looking like a bride
A million perfect snowflakes now
And no two are alike
So it's hard for me imagining
The flaws in this design"

Theme from Pinata, from "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," by Bright Eyes

"We create a new people.


The next stage,
you will see!

Yasser Arafat, sampled in "Hezbollah Radio Advert," by Muslimgauze

The big news is the end of the Omaha Public School District. The secret news is the triumph of complex adaptive systems.

Ernie Chambers, Architect of Destruction

On June 6, 2005, Omaha Superintendent decide to increase his power by annexing 25 schools currently part of the Elkhorn, Millard, and Ralston public school districts. Using an obscure Nebraska doctrine called "One City, One School district," Dr. Mackiel planned to increase the centralizing influence of the Omaha Public Schools, the Office of the Superintendent, and, least of all, himself.

What he didn't count on was complex adaptive systems.

The blow-back was severe. Nebraska's legislature responded by passing a law in April 2006 creating an amorphous "Omaha Learning Community." Yet the Unicameral then proceeded to tear OPS apart.

Senator Ernie Chambers, a traditional hero to Nebraska's Left, used the opportunity of Omaha's education flux to introduce a bill to split OPS into three smaller school districts. Citing OPS's history of segregation (a charge that Dr. Mackiel no doubt denies), Chambers proposed creating a majority white, majority black, and largely hispanic school district. This way, according to Chambers' logic, each community will be in charge of its own future.

Yesterday, the Legislature approved the measure. Governor David Heineman signed the law. The dismember of Omaha Public Schools is the law.

Will the reform work? Will it be better for whites, blacks, and latinos, parents and children, residents and taxpayers? I have no idea. I am as clueless as an Education Department bureaucrat, and Justice Department lawyer.

Yet the "global brain" isn't clueless. Our world is a , where winning solutions are rewarded and losing solutions are punished. Well designed solutions become popular and thrive, while poorly designed solutions are shunned and die.

Nebraska's devolutionary perspective with education in her largest city will be watched across the country. Papers in Arkansas, California, Indiana, , Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Washington State, West Virginia, and around the world are following the news, running the AP story by Scott Bauer..

In a centralized state, like France, this sort of experimentation would be impossible. Instead of harnessing the power of complex adaptive systems through a federal government, dying countries like France put their faith in experts, soviet-style decision making, and "intelligent design." The evolutionary advantage of complex adaptive systems are clear, from the United States of America to the Unix computer system.

The Courts should sit back, and we should all see if this reform makes education in Omaha better or worse. Trust reality, not Franco-Soviet-style "experts."


Wow ! Dan, I don't even know where to begin on this one....

First, it is an interesting development that the Left is now openly embracing racial apartheid in the name of..well...I'm not sure what...perhaps incoherent hostility to mainstream America. In any event this position is at least free of hypocrisy.

Secondly, if the reasoning of the bill was as explicitly racial as you describe Dan, this couldn't possibly pass a Constitutional challenge in Federal court. It isn't likely to pass on the factual results either.

The centralizing, self-aggrandizing, undemocratic move of the superintendent that set off this game of screw up the schools, is so textbook an example of the authoritarian nature of educational administrative culture that it should be marked down as yet another reason to close down all the colleges of education in this country for about a year to take the time to instead ponder where we've gone wrong.

I stand amazed.

Posted by: mark safranski | Friday, April 14, 2006


There's a lot of incoherency in the Justice Department.

My home state, South Dakota, was split up Lakota Sioux voters in a portion of the state into four legislative districts. Because Indians tend to vote Democratic in this Republican state, and Indians vote less than non-Indians, those four districts proceeded to elect (white) Republicans.

So the USDOJ sued us under the Voting Rights Act.

Rapidly losing a case no one cared about (the Republicans hold a huge majority, and we had a strong Governor anyway), South Dakota complied with the DOJ's recommended solution: redraw the line creating (two) majority Indian districts.

The USDOJ then sued us, for minimizing the influence of Indian voters. After all, the logic went, Indians could now only influence 2 districts, instead of four.

I have no idea what plan is better. We have a part time legislature, and doubtless they had no idea either. But the hopes of any coherent solution are repeatedly broken by clueless bureaucrats and power-grabbing Courts.

With that background, in any lawsuit US v. Nebraska, my sympathy's with Nebraska. You can let a complex adaptive system work or you can disrupt it. DC's solution is to disrupt it.

As far as the politics of the thing -- Senator Chambers' /is/ the Left in this case, because Nebraska doesn't have a Left outside of Chambers' district in Omaha and the "green zone" around the UNL campus. There was a lot of anger against Omaha's influence in the state anyway, and Mackiel's powergrab was the opportunity everyone else had to tear an Omaha institution apart.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, April 14, 2006


Don't read too much into this law passed. This is the Nebraska Unicameral's version of the "Poison Pill" amendments that Congress initiates in bills that they want to kill (see the felony provision in the Immigration Reform bill for an example!).Only in this case, it is designed to kill off any designs OPS had over Millard, Elkhorn, and other districts in the Omaha area.

And OPS's power grab attempt should be killed off. If Phoenix can get along with 30 DISTRICTS in its city limits and Colorado Springs can get along with 5 school districts, then Omaha can do the same.

Posted by: Brad S | Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The bill is now law. Are you saying that this is designed not to succeed as such, but only to distract OPS from future expansions?

If so -- very well played! I stand delighted.

PS: Mark Safranski has more

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dan - well articulated synopsis of not only the legislation and how it evolved, but also the advantages of our system of adapting and adopting rules or codes of conduct most beneficial for society. We are seeing the science experiment called socialism unravel in France, largely due to a lack of ability to change as needed.

Omaha Public School district is getting what it deserves. A lack of flexibility by OPS as well as the state senators has led us to where OPS is today: facing less power and prowess than before. The original proposal came out of left field, with no buy-in, and leading with a lawsuit. Now that the battle is lost, OPS is again suggesting lawsuits are imminent. Their ego knows no bounds, and the cost of that ego is now being exposed.

Posted by: SalukiBill | Wednesday, April 19, 2006