Newly elected Lincoln Board of Education member Matt Schulte is home-schooling his two oldest children this year, despite telling voters they would attend Maxey Elementary this fall.
Schulte and his wife, Kristin, who have four young children, home-schooled their oldest son in kindergarten and first grade. He is now in second grade, and their oldest daughter is a kindergartner.
“After much thought and prayer we have decided not to send our two oldest children to public school this year,” Schulte said Thursday in a prepared statement offered in response to a question from the Journal Star. “This does not reflect in any way on the quality of education LPS provides, but is clearly the best educational choice for our children.”
The fact that the Schultes home-schooled their son came up during the campaign, and Matt Schulte wrote in a Journal Star candidate questionnaire -- and said in interviews -- that his children would attend Maxey.
“Due to the birth of our youngest and the fact that we moved between schools in the last year we opted to keep our children home with Kristin,” he wrote a campaign questionnaire from the Journal Star in March. “They will be attending Maxey Elementary.”
Rita Bennett, president of the Lincoln Education Association, which represents more than 2,800 LPS teachers, said it is disappointing Schulte broke his campaign pledge to enroll his students at LPS.
"That was a question during the campaign," she said. "I had every faith he would follow through."
The fact that the Schultes chose not to send their children to LPS could have made a difference to some voters, she said.
"We think LPS offers a really high quality education, and it feels like a lack of confidence," she said, even though that may not be the case.
Schulte, executive director of Campus Life in Lincoln, narrowly defeated incumbent Katie McLeese Stephenson, who raised the home-schooling issue during the campaign, as did the group Every Student Counts.
Every Student Counts formed as a counterpoint to the parents’ rights group called CARE, created by those critical of gender identity materials used in a teacher training.
CARE supported Schulte, who distanced himself from the group during the campaign.
As the lone vote against the district's proposed budget, Schulte aligned himself with fiscally conservative groups including the Lincoln Independent Business Association and Americans for Prosperity. Both groups wanted LPS to lower its tax rate in light of an 8.9 percent increase in revenue.
Schulte, who was endorsed by LIBA, said in an earlier interview that his family moved in the middle of their son’s kindergarten year, and then decided to home-school him during first grade as well.
He said at the time that his wife had been a teacher for nine years, so they decided to try home-schooling. He said both he and his wife had good public school experiences.
Ed Zimmer, who retired from the school board after serving nearly two decades, said he cannot remember another board member who chose not to enroll their children at LPS. Some members -- including some current members -- have grown children. Connie Duncan's children attended both LPS and Lincoln Lutheran.
In his statement Tuesday, Schulte said he cares deeply about the success of public schools, shown by his service to the community, on the school board and through his work at Campus Life, which he said served more than 2,400 teenagers who attended public schools last year.
Schulte didn't offer an explanation for the change of heart, but said in a telephone interview Thursday that he and his wife do intend to send their children to public schools at some point.
And he said he doesn't think their choice not to do so this year diminishes his ability to serve on the public school board.
“I really want to have a great public school system," Schulte said, "and as a taxpayer and voter, I think all of us should care about our public schools, even if we don’t have kids in public schools. They train our neighbor’s kids, our co-workers, our doctors. So everyone should care about a public school system.”
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