Legislative Updates

 

NSEA Legislative Update – May 18, 2015

In This Update:

  1. Master Teacher Program Funding Survives a Select File Showdown
  2. Career and College Readiness Program Funding Now in Doubt
  3. 2015 Priority and Education Bills of Interest

 

Master Teacher Program Funding Survives a Select File Showdown

Recently, the Master Teacher Program – designed to financially assist teachers who seek Master Teacher status and reward those who achieve it – survived an attempt during second round debate to remove its funding from the State’s main budget bill, LB 657.  Senator Kate Sullivan from Cedar Rapids filed an amendment which, had it been successful, would have completely defunded the Master Teacher program by cutting its $470,000 appropriation and transferring the funds to special education.

Currently, teachers can achieve master teacher status by earning credentials from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  To be National Board Certified, a teacher can complete the program in segments over a three-year period at a cost of about $2,000.  National Board certification is designed to be the “Gold Standard” in teacher certification.  It is similar to a “Board Certified” doctor and is open to any teacher who is in their third-year of teaching or beyond.

The Master Teacher Program Act was originally passed by the Legislature in 2000, but the program was never funded.  The Act provides that a teacher who applies to a credentialing organization required to be a master teacher shall be eligible for a registration award to pay for fees associated with obtaining such credentials.  Registration awards are to be paid in two parts: half upon registration in a credentialed program, and the remaining half upon completion of the program. 

The Act also provides that for each teacher who has completed the Master Teacher Program, he or she shall receive an annual salary bonus (based upon the amount of money remaining in the fund), not to exceed $5,000 dollars per year.

Fortunately the amendment to defund the Master Teacher Program failed by a vote of 20-16-10.  The amendment needed 25 votes to prevail and a “present and not voting” action had the same affect as a “no” vote.  Here is how your senator voted on this important teacher professional development bill.

Senators who voted to eliminate funding for the Master Teacher Program:

Baker, Bloomfield, Brasch, Chambers, Coash, Craighead, Ebke, Friesen, Garrett, Gloor, Groene, Harr B., Howard, Kolowski, Riepe, Scheer, Schnoor, Schumacher, Seiler, and Sullivan.

Those who voted no or did not vote to remove funding for the Master Teacher Program:

Bolz, Campbell, Cook, Crawford, Davis, Haar K., Hadley, Hansen, Hilkemann, Hughes, Johnson, Kintner, Kolterman, Kuehn, Lindstrom, McCollister, McCoy, Mello, Morfeld, Murante, Pansing Brooks, Schilz, Smith, Stinner, Watermeier, and Williams.

 

Career and College Readiness Program Funding Now in Doubt

On May 4, 2015, LB 343 was amended into LB 525. Senator Rick Kolowski of Omaha is the primary sponsor of LB343, which creates a dedicated source of funding of up to $2 million (outside of the current state aide formula) for public schools that implement and offer quality career and college readiness programs, including programs of excellence, dual-enrollment, and career academies.

School districts that are currently offering career and college readiness programs would be eligible to be reimbursed for each student who successfully completes one or more of these programs.  Through their Educational Service Unit, school districts would be able to apply for reimbursement to the Nebraska Department of Education, which is charged with creating rules and regulations to determine the mechanisms for successful student completion.

Then on May 13, 2015, Senator Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids took issue with the proposed $2 million funding and secured the votes to indefinitely postpone (kill) the related appropriations bill, LB 525A.  The entire program is now in doubt since the language in LB 525 creating the program does not have funding. The action effectively guts the career and college readiness program.

LB 343 also would have helped reimburse school districts for teacher professional development programs.  Additional funding would have been available for educators to have appropriate training in order to provide the career and college readiness programs enhanced by the bill. 

The motion to kill LB525A (the appropriations bill) needed only a simple majority to prevail.  A “present and not voting” action had the same affect as a “yes” vote for killing the funding bill. The funding bill was killed on a vote of 21-20-5.  Here is how your senator voted on this important teacher professional development bill:

Voting to support Career and College Readiness funding:

Baker, Bolz, Chambers, Crawford, Garrett, Gloor, Haar K., Hansen, Harr B., Hilkemann, Howard, Johnson, Kolowski, Krist, Lindstrom, McCollister, Morfeld, Pansing Brooks, Riepe, and Seiler.

Voting (or not voting) in Opposition to Career and College Readiness funding:

Bloomfield, Brasch, Campbell, Coash, Cook, Craighead, Davis, Ebke, Friesen, Groene, Hadley, Kintner, Kuehn, McCoy, Mello, Murante, Nordquist, Scheer, Schilz, Schnoor, Schumacher, Smith, Stinner, Sullivan, Watermeier, and Williams.

 

2015 Priority and Education Bills of Interest

As of today, the Legislature is on day 82 of a 90-day session.  Including recess days (non-meeting days), the body has about three weeks remaining to debate a number of proposals before it, including the death penalty, driver licenses for children of undocumented immigrants, and LB 448, a retirement bill modifying the OPS pension system.

LB 185 (Bolz) Appropriate funds to implement the Master Teacher Program Act.

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Included in main budget bill LB 657 and presented to Governor.

Appropriates $1 million each year for the Master Teacher Program Act.  Provides incentive grants and additional salary for teachers seeking and obtaining National Board Certification. The Master Teacher Program Act was first enacted in the 2000 Session of the Legislature and at the time never received funding following its enactment.  During this session, proposed funding was reduced to $470,000 and included in the main budget bill, LB 657.

LB 232 (Nordquist) Adopt the College Choice Grant Program Act.

NSEA Position: Oppose.     Status: Remains in the Education Committee - Kolterman priority bill.

Creates the College Choice Grant Program Act.  Provides for awards made directly to eligible students attending only 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.

LB239 - Provide for a Coordinator for Educator Effectiveness and educator evaluation

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Amended into LB 525 by AM1306 and placed on Select File.

LB 239 requires the Dept. of Education to appoint a Coordinator for Educator Effectiveness to 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 bill provides 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.

LB 323 (Davis) Create the School Financing Review Commission.

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Remains in the Education Committee.

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.  A similar review has been proposed as an interim study committee in LR 201.

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

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Amended into LB 525 by AM1493 and placed on Select File.

Creates a $2 million 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.  The underlying appropriations bill funding provisions of AM1493 in LB 525A did not advance on General File.

LB 448 (Nordquist) Change provisions of the Omaha School Employees Retirement System.

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Placed on Select File and amended by AM1555.

As amended by the committee amendment, the bill makes the following changes: (1) further aligns the benefits of the Omaha School Employees Retirement System (OSERS) members with the benefits of the statewide School Employees Retirement System; (2) moves investment authority from OSERS to the Nebraska Investment Council; (3) restructures the administration and governance of OSERS to more closely align with the Public Employee Retirement Board's governance of the School Employees Retirement System; and (4) creates greater State funding parity between the School Employees Retirement System and OSERS.

LB 509 (Cook) Change provisions relating to a poverty allowance under the state aid formula.

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Amended into LB 525 by AM1347 and placed on Select File.

Changes provisions relating to the poverty allowance in the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act. The bill eliminates provisions, which currently disqualify a district from receiving the poverty allowance in an ensuing year when poverty expenditures do not equal 50% or more of the allowance. It also decreases the required amount that a district must spend on poverty expenditures in order to avoid having a poverty allowance correction. Poverty expenditures must equal 105.26% rather than 117.65% of the poverty allowance. It also increases the allowance correction from 85% to 95%. Another penalty, which provides a poverty allowance correction of 50% when a district does not meet the required elements of a poverty plan is reduced to a 5% correction. It is assumed the changes will be implemented beginning In FY2016-17.

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

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Approved by Governor on May 13, 2015.

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 attached, similar to LB 589, which will continue the Excellence in Teaching Act providing $1.2 million in tuition reimbursement for teachers.

LB 525 (Sullivan) Change provisions relating to education.

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Placed on Select File.

Change provisions relating to the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System, advertising for bids, admission of homeless students, the deputy commissioner of education, academic content standards, adjustment of educational service unit boundaries, and the State Council on Educational Opportunity for Military Children; to eliminate provisions relating to annual school meetings as prescribed; and to harmonize provisions.  Amendments have been adopted to incorporate provisions of LB 239 establishing a grant program for educator effectiveness, LB 343 creating a $2 million career readiness grant program, and LB 509 making changes to the poverty allowance in TEEOSA.  Funding for the amendment related to LB 343 is now in doubt because LB 525A failed to advance.

LB 599 (Ebke) Provide a minimum wage for certain young student workers.

NSEA Position: Oppose.     Status: Failed to advance on Final Reading.

The bill would create a lower minimum wage rate for student workers. Adds language creating a young student workers wage rate. Employers may pay young student workers who are 18 years of age or younger, do not have a high school diploma, and who do not qualify for the training wage rate of Section 48-1203.01 or the student-learners’ wage rate of Section 48-1203(3), an hourly rate of $8.00. A maximum of 25% of the total hours paid by the employer may be at the young student workers wage rate.  The operative date of the bill would be January 1, 2016.

LB 623 (Nordquist) Provide for issuance of motor vehicle licenses to persons with lawful status.

NSEA Position: Support.     Status: Placed on Select File.

The bill will require Department of Motor Vehicles to issue drivers licenses or state identification cards to about 2,300 individuals (including high school students) who may demonstrate lawful status pursuant to the bill. These individuals are granted lawful status for a period of time by the federal government under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A committee amendment has been proposed providing that an individual who has an operator's license or state identification card issue based on approved lawful status and if the basis for the approved lawful status is terminated, then the individual shall return the operator's license or state identification card to the Department of Motor Vehicles.