NSEA Legislative Update – April 13, 2015
In This Update:
- Good News: Tuition Reimbursement and Master Teacher Programs
- Proposed Grant Program to Support Educator Evaluation Framework
- 2015 Priority Bills of Interest
Good News: Tuition Reimbursement and Master Teacher Programs
The Nebraska Legislature is two-thirds of the way through its 90-day session.
Members of the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, are busily adding the final patina to the Committee’s budget recommendation. By Legislative rule, budget recommendations are due by the 70th day and must be passed by the 80th day of this 90-day session. The budget debate will include debate on the Department of Education’s budget request.
We have good news on the tuition reimbursement program: NSEA has had success in securing preliminary funding for the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching Program tuition reimbursement plan. The tentative budget includes $1.2 million in EETP monies each of the next five years. The NSEA-backed proposal was introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks in LB589.
This past Thursday, LB589 was amended into LB519 and passed on General File. The proposal would expand the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching Program to include endorsement programs such as early childhood, special education, career academy/dual credit endorsements and other shortage area endorsements.
The EETP is the only state incentive to attract and retain quality teachers in Nebraska. As more teachers retire and the demand for teachers endorsed in early childhood grow, the need for this program becomes even more evident. For the 2014-15 award year, the Nebraska Department of Education provided 830 loans to eligible teachers and students seeking education related degrees.
And there is more good news to share: The Appropriations Committee has added $500,000 for the Master Teacher Program in its preliminary budget proposal. The Master Teacher Program was first passed by the Legislature in 2000, but thanks to an economic downturn that followed passage, the program was never funded. The Master Teacher Program provides incentives for teachers to obtain their National Board Certification. If passed by the full Legislature, the program would provide scholarships for National Board Certification completion – and additional pay – for teachers who earn such certification.
Proposed Grant Program to Support Educator Evaluation Framework
LB 239, introduced by Senator Ken Haar of Lincoln, would establish a grant program to support the Department of Education’s Educator Evaluation Framework and provides for a Coordinator for Educator Effectiveness to oversee it. Grants would be provided for schools adopting the State Board’s Educator Evaluation Frameworks, which is a voluntary program, encouraging school districts to adopt the frameworks without the need for a mandate.
If the bill is adopted, the Coordinator would work with schools, educational service units, postsecondary educational institutions and other education stakeholders to develop and make available evaluation models for educators, provide training to implement the models and facilitate the collection of data to determine model effectiveness.
The Department would provide grants for up to two years to school districts to implement an evaluation model for effective educators and to obtain training for administrators and teachers for such model. Intent language in the bill provides that $3.5 million shall be available for grants. Income from solar or wind agreements on school lands would be used for the educator effectiveness grants.
The bill was heard before the Education Committee on January 26, 2015, and is currently under consideration for advancement by that Committee.
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.
NSEA Position: Oppose.
Creates the College Choice Grant Program Act. Provides for awards made directly to eligible students attending private state colleges demonstrating substantial financial need. Shall be administered by the Postsecondary Education Commission in conjunction with eligible postsecondary educational institutions. General Fund appropriations would be required to support financial aid to be awarded under provisions of the Act, and the level of such appropriations would be at the discretion of the Legislature.
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.
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.
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 tuiti