LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ The governor signed a bill Thursday repealing the planned breakup of the Omaha school district into three districts, largely along racial lines.
The new plan will partner Omaha-area districts in a ``learning community,'' where district borders will become less important and may be crossed regularly. A new council is supposed to help enact programs to encourage integration and achievement, especially among poorer children.
Backers of the previously planned breakup, which passed last year, had said that dividing the state's largest district would have given minorities control of their own school boards. The division was put on hold after lawsuits alleged that the new, smaller districts would amount to state-endorsed segregation.
Now, through an open-enrollment plan, kids could be transported for free to other schools. Schools now filled with mostly white, affluent students could end up with more poor and minority students.
Pupils who would increase the diversity of schools they wished to attend would be given higher priority in decisions about transfers.
The bill was the product of months of negotiation. Gov. Dave Heineman said it wasn't perfect but would still improve the education of Omaha-area kids.
``I hope that today is the start of a new era of collaboration and cooperation when it comes to what matters most _ ensuring a positive future for the children of Nebraska,'' Heineman said.
The law also freezes school district boundaries in an attempt to resolve disputes over districts taking over adjacent districts.
The Legislature's only black senator, Ernie Chambers of Omaha, pushed last year's bill and also signed off on the new plan.
Doug Christensen, state education commissioner, said the law has the potential to force revolutionary changes in the Omaha area.
``The reality?'' Christensen said. ``We'll have to wait and see.''