Why we are here

Education Rights Counsel was created from a desire to make education better for students and families.  


In Nebraska, there is an access to justice gap. Nearly 47% of all students live in low-income families.  More than 50% of all Nebraska children verified with special needs are students in poverty.  And Nebraska has a higher rate of suspensions and expulsions than average across the Unites States.  


Access to public K-12 education is a legal right, but the laws governing education are nuanced, layered and complex.  Difficulties with access are exacerbated when parents do not have the resources to speak confidently about what they think is best for their children.  Parents and children who don't accurately and adequately understand the educational system are far more likely to go without services, be removed from school, and be denied legal rights.  The resulting harm can last a lifetime.


Education Rights Counsel's goal is to generate systemic change in Nebraska by equalizing access to advocacy and legal representation for under-resourced families with a focus on special education support and student discipline.


We partner with multiple individuals and organizations across the state to build understanding through education and engagement. 


Because we are a non-profit with very specific education expertise, we provide a unique service in Nebraska for a significant community of under-served children.  


Our purpose is supported by a dedicated Board of Directors

Debora Wisneski, President

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Dr. Wisneski is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska - Omaha, and 

past president of the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI).  She earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and  has two children happily enrolled in public school.

David Pedersen, Secretary & Treasurer

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A former seminarian at St. John’s University with a Master’s Degree in philosophy and a law degree, David served as a school lawyer for 30 years. 

He has a passion for helping students and a long devotion to civil rights and the alleviation of the impact of poverty or disability on a child’s life chances.

George Achola

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George is an attorney with a career dedicated to equity and affordable housing.  Currently he is Vice President at Burlington Capital Real Estate.  He also serves on the Board of the Omaha Housing Authority and is a member of  the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority Board.  In his spare time he coaches girl's soccer, because kids matter.

Denise Gehringer

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As a Program Director, Advocate, and proud mother of a child with special needs, Denise dedicates herself to helping all people with intellectual and developmental

disabilities achieve their full potential to live healthy, fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Christine Tran

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Christine DiMasi Tran DNP, APRN-NP is a committed clinical care provider at Nebraska Medicine/UNMC, Down Syndrome advocate and mother of a son living with a developmental disability.  Her dedication to community cheers us all.

Katie Weitz, PhD

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From classroom to academia, Katie's achievements and dedication to the community and her work as the Executive Director of her own family’s foundation all are witness to her dedication to children and education.

Our Professionals

Lauren Micek Vargas

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Executive Director


Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda

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Managing Attorney

Annual Report & Other Documents

Files coming soon.

Non-Profit of the Midlands Best Practices Partner

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Our Supporters

Education Rights Counsel is the grateful recipient of continuous support from individuals, foundations, and corporations.  We thank the amazing generosity of every contributor.  Your passion changes the lives of children for the better every single day.



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