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The Nebraska State Education Association on Wednesday declared Sens. Merv Riepe of Ralston and Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha "have not been supportive" of public education after they claimed to be education supporters in their campaign mailers.

Both senators "received a grade of F from teachers because of their votes on public education issues," NSEA President Jenni Benson said.

"Both have announced support for voucher-like schemes and unregulated charter schools," Benson said.  

"Merv Riepe and Theresa Thibodeau are trying to mislead voters with a cookie-cutter postcard that attempts to show that the senators voted to support children and public education," she said.

In response, Thibodeau said she has compiled a legislative record of support for public education, including voting for "a solution to the state's budget shortfall that protected funding for K-12 public education."

In addition, she said, she voted to shore up the Omaha Public Schools underfunded retired teacher pension fund, to expand mental health services in the schools, to ensure Nebraska school children read at or above grade level by the third grade and to ensure students identified with dyslexia will receive specialized reading instruction.

Thibodeau said she's committed to adequately funding public schools but also supports "parents having options like private and parochial schools and home schooling."

Riepe and Thibodeau, both Republicans who are engaged in highly competitive nonpartisan legislative contests with Democratic challengers, have the endorsement and active support of Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Ricketts appointed Thibodeau to her legislative seat last October, and this will be her first election test.

Riepe is opposed by former Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, who previously was a strong force in the Legislature.  

Among Thibodeau's primary election opponents is Machaela Cavanaugh, the daughter of former Democratic Rep. John Cavanaugh, who served in the Legislature before his election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Benson said she was speaking for the 28,000 members of the NSEA.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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