Legislative Updates

 

 

NSEA Legislative Update – March 27, 2015

In This Update:

  1. Legislature Changes Gears and Full Day Debate Begins
  2. Professional Development Programs: In State Law & (Still!) Unfunded
  3. 2015 Priority Bills of Interest

 

Legislature Changes Gears as Full Day Debate Begins

All-day floor debate is now under way in the Nebraska Legislature as Committees held final hearings last week on introduced legislation, ending committee public hearings for the year. Starting this week, full-day debate will focus on the bills selected as priorities by individual senators, committees, and Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Galen Hadley.  A full listing of 2015 priority bills can be viewed here.

Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) provides live coverage of legislative floor activity. These can be viewed as a video stream from NET's website.  The same broadcast is provided on cable television at NET2 through the following cable operators: Cox Cable Omaha, TimeWarner Cable (Southeast Nebraska) and Charter Communications (Central Nebraska).

 

Professional Development Programs: In State Law & (Still!) Unfunded

Two Nebraska Department of Education professional development programs for teachers are currently in state law but have remained unfunded for a number of years.  LB 185 (the Master Teacher Program) and LB 274 (a peer mentoring program for teachers) seek to finally fund these two programs.

The Master Teacher Program was first passed by the Legislature in 2000.  The primary purpose was to build a group of recognized teachers of high achievement.  It would have provided incentives for teachers to obtain their National Board Certification.  Unfortunately, the program has never been funded.  The original appropriation for the bill was intended to be $1 million.  LB 185, seeks to have this original appropriation amount be included in the state’s budget. 

The Mentor Teacher Program, begun in 1998, was funded for about three years at 10 percent of the total Education Innovation Lottery fund allocation.  This amounted to about $1 million each year.  In 2001, Nebraska experienced a severe revenue shortfall and all lottery funding was temporarily transferred to the General Fund.  Without the additional funding, many school districts ended their mentoring programs, and have not continued the formal mentoring relationships which are so important to supporting beginning teachers through their first few years of developing as an educator.  LB 274’s goal is to reinstitute funding for the Mentor Teacher Program.

PLEASE: LB 185 and LB 274 will be discussed by the Appropriations Committee in closed session next week.  Please contact the following senators on the Committee and let them know that LB 185 and LB 274 are vital to enhancing professional development of teachers in Nebraska.

Sen. Heath Mello, Chair       Omaha             (402) 471-2710       hmello@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Kate Bolz                    Lincoln              (402) 471-2734       kbolz@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Ken Haar                    Lincoln              (402) 471-2673       khaar@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Robert Hilkemann        Omaha             (402) 471-2621       rhilkemann@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Bill Kintner                   Papillion            (402) 471-2613       bkintner@leg.ne.gov

Sen. John Kuehn                 Heartwell          (402) 471-2732       jkuehn@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist        Omaha             (402) 471-2721       jnordquist@leg.ne.gov

Sen. John Stinner                Gering              (402) 471-2802       jstinner@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Dan Watermeier          Syracuse          (402) 471-2733       dwatermeier@leg.ne.gov

 

2015 Priority Bills of Interest

Several proposals related to education and school financing are among this session’s priorities, including LB 323, which would create the School Finance Review Commission; LB 519, which would continue tuition reimbursements for teachers; and LB 343, a bill to implement and offer quality career and college readiness programs for school districts.

LB 323 (Davis) Create the School Financing Review Commission

NSEA Position: Support.

Establishes the School Financing Review Commission consisting of nineteen members. The Commission is to conduct an in-depth review of the financing of public elementary and secondary schools, which includes specified areas for review that are identified in the bill.  The Commission ceases to exist on December 31, 2016. The Commission may hire staff and consultants and obtain assistance from the State Department of Education (NDE) and Department of Revenue in acquiring data.  The Commission may contract for any necessary facilities, equipment and services. Intent language provides that general funds of at least $100,000 shall be appropriated to carry out the duties of the Commission.

LB 519 (Sullivan) Provide for school and student aid, grants, and assistance as prescribed

NSEA Position: Support.

Allocates the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund (lottery funds) in FY2016-17 though FY2026-27. The bill requires the State Department of Education (NDE) and the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (CCPE) establish competitive innovation grant programs and provide assistance to students for costs of obtaining credentials for trade occupations that are experiencing shortages of qualified workers.  Establishes a new best practices allowance in the state aid to schools formula and requires the Department of Labor to annually certify a list of trade occupations that are experiencing shortages of qualified workers.  Provides that programs and activities funded immediately prior to the termination of the Education Innovation Fund and the State Lottery Operation Trust Fund shall be fully replaced with funding from the General Fund based upon budget requests submitted by NDE and CCPE.  A committee amendment has been proposed which will continue the Excellence in Teaching Act providing tuition reimbursement for teachers.

LB 343 (Kolowski) Provide funding for schools offering certain programs and courses as prescribed

NSEA Position: Support.

Creates a dedicated source of funding for public schools that implement and offer quality career and college readiness programs, including, but not limited to, programs of excellence, dual-enrollment, and career academies.  School districts are eligible to be reimbursed for each student who successfully completes one or more of these programs.  Also creates the Career and College Readiness Fund.  Money in this fund is available through grants to support schools that are in the initial implementation phase of a college and career readiness program.