Legislative Updates

NSEA Legislative Update - Feb 17, 2017

In This Message:

  1. A Solution: LB525 Would Use Lottery Funds for Master Teacher Program
  2. Sen. Kolowski Seeks Additional Funding for Programs of Excellence
  3. Upcoming Hearings
  4. Review of Recent Hearings

For a list of all introduced bills and resolutions introduced during the 2017 Legislative Session, click here.

 

LB525 Would Use Lottery Funds for the Master Teacher Program

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld has a solution to a very real problem. In LB525, Morfeld proposes to fund the Master Teacher Program with 1% of the proceeds from the Innovation Fund for Education funded with lottery dollars.  These funds would replace the $470,000 now financing the program through the state’s general fund.

Two other bills, LB22 and LB214, propose discontinuation of funding and total elimination of the program. NSEA opposes both.

Under the Master Teacher program, teachers are provided incentives to complete National Board Certification, which research shows leads to improvements in classroom teaching and student success. Teachers are reimbursed for the costs of fees for the certification program, which is a “hands-on,” classroom-based program.  Any remaining funds would go to stipends for teachers who remain in the classroom after attaining National Board Certification.  Stipends would be capped based on available funding.

The Master Teacher Program is the only remaining state general fund program that directly promotes enhanced professionalism of teachers in the classroom. It benefits both equalized and non-equalized school districts.  

There are 23 teachers in the process of obtaining certification, and there are 65 master teachers in Nebraska who qualify for stipends. The Master Teacher Program is currently authorized for $470,000 that is distributed to teachers. Funds generated by 1% of the Innovation Fund is estimated to be approximately $200,000 annually.

After subtracting the funds necessary to support the registration fee reimbursement (about $2,200 for each registrant), there would be sufficient remaining funds initially to provide for a $1,300 annual stipend for each teacher holding the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards credential, as opposed to the current $5,000 per year. As the number of these credentialed teachers increase, the share for each stipend would decrease.

 

ACTION NEEDED:  NSEA encourages you to email, write or call your senator, and to email the members of the Education Committee to encourage them to keep and fund the Master Teacher Program.  Here are the Education Committee contacts:

 

Sen. Mike Groene, Chair              mgroene@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Rick Kolowski, Vice-Chair     rkolowski@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Laura Ebke                          lebke@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Steve Erdman                      serdman@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan                  llinehan@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Adam Morfeld                      amorfeld@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks           ppansingbrooks@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Lynne Walz                          lwalz@leg.ne.gov

 

 

Kolowski Seeks Additional Funding for Programs of Excellence

NSEA supports LB575, introduced by Sen. Rick Kolowski of Omaha, which creates a new funding source for schools offering programs of excellence. This funding source would help equalize opportunity for students in schools with limited financial resources.

Under LB575, the State Board of Education would identify “programs of excellence” – such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, Project Lead the Way, CASE, High School of Business, Rule 47 Career Academies, etc. – and the Board would determine what constitutes successful completion by students in each program.


NSEA believes legislation requiring new or expanded education programs should be financed with state funds.  When state funds are available to both equalized and non-equalized school districts, it provides a strong incentive to promote the adoption of these programs of excellence. The programs envisioned by LB575 would align well with the new AQuESTT evaluation system for moving schools from a good rating to a great or excellent rating. 

LB575 would enable school districts with limited resources to implement new programs of excellence and would help cover a portion of the ongoing costs. Funding for the program is estimated at $2 million, and in a difficult budget year is unlikely to advance without a separate source of funding outside of general fund dollars.

 

Upcoming Committee Hearings

Unless otherwise noted, hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. and are live-streamed via NET and can be accessed online by clicking here. For a list of committee chairs and members, click here.

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017

Education Committee – Room 1525 (1:30 pm)

No bill hearings are scheduled in the Education Committee this week.

Appropriations Committee – Room 1524 (1:30 pm)

LB327 (Scheer) Appropriate funds for the expenses of Nebraska State Government for the biennium

NSEA Position: Neutral

Mainline budget appropriation bill for FY2017-18 and FY2018-19. Provides funding for various agencies including the Nebraska Department of Education. Also, provides funding for state aid to education in TEEOSA.  Spending for TEEOSA is projected to include only a 3.78% increase for FY2017-18. This is a $31 million decrease from what state law currently requires. The TEEOSA formula will be adjusted in separate legislation to account for this decrease.

Retirement Committee – Room 1525 (12:00 pm)

LB412 (Bolz) Provide duties for investment officer on investments in energy-related companies

NSEA Position: Oppose

Requires the state investment officer to review state retirement investments in companies or funds that derive 50% or more of the revenue from extraction or combustion of fossil fuels. The review is to examine the volatility and risks associated with fossil fuel investments and to consider how state funds are invested in clean energy sources. The bill also requires a report on fossil fuel investment and clean energy investment.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017

Revenue Committee – Room 1524 (1:30 pm)

LB563 (McCollister) Impose sales tax on certain services and eliminate certain sales tax exemptions

NSEA Position: Support

Broadens the sales tax base to include additional services not currently covered by state law. The bill is estimated to raise approximately $80 million annually.

Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017

Retirement Committee – Room 1525 (12:00 pm)

LB548 (Lindstrom) Consolidate Class V retirement system and School Employees Retirement System

NSEA Position: Oppose

Combines the Omaha School Employees’ Retirement System and the Nebraska School Employees Retirement System beginning in 2020. OSERS, is the second oldest, continuously operating retirement system covering school employees in the nation.  The Nebraska School Employees Retirement System was founded in 1945.  The two plans have existed side-by-side for more than seventy years. If the OSERS trust fund is closed, any current unfunded liability for that plan will only increase in size. Combining the retirement plans does nothing to address any current unfunded liability.

 

Review of Recent Public Hearings

Monday, Feb. 13, 2017

Education Committee – Room 1525 (1:30 pm)

LB608 (Linehan) Adopt the Parental Choice Scholarship Program

NSEA Position: Oppose

Allows a student to qualify for a scholarship to enroll in a private school if the student resides in a public school district which is at the lowest performance level established by NDE. The student may continue to attend the private school on scholarship until graduation or upon reaching age 21. Students participating in the scholarship program are counted as students in their school district of residence for purposes of TEEOSA. The scholarship amount paid by a resident district to a private participating school is the lesser of: 75% anticipated revenue per student for the school year or actual cost of tuition, books, and uniforms. Resident school districts are responsible for transportation. Resident school districts are to establish property tax relief funds with the other 25% of the anticipated revenue per student. The fund is to be used to reduce the property tax request in the following year after the school district budget has been adopted.

Retirement Committee – Room 1507 (12:00 pm)

LB532 (Kolterman) Change provisions relating to a military service credit for certain retirement plans

NSEA Position: Support

Changes the provisions relating to military service credit for the state administered retirement plans – county, judges, school, state patrol and state. Current law provides that for military service rendered after December 12, 1994, the employer is required to match any contributions made by a member to purchase military service credits for the period in which the member was deployed.

 

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017

Education Committee – Room 1525 (1:30 pm)

LB246 (Morfeld) Provide a budget exception for expanded learning opportunity programs

NSEA Position: Support

Provides authority for a school district to exceed its budget limitation for expanded learning opportunity programs. These programs are a school-community partnership providing school-age students and their families with programming, support, activities and services after school, on weekends and when school is not in session. The bill allows districts with more than 1,000 students to exceed the budget limit by up to $100,000 and schools with 1,000 or fewer students to exceed the limit by up to $50,000. It is assumed the bill does not just apply to high need schools.

LB247 (Morfeld) Provide for school district levy and bonding authority for cybersecurity

NSEA Position: Support

Authorizes school districts to levy a property tax to address cybersecurity vulnerability. The tax authority is an expansion of existing authority for districts to levy up to $.03 for abatement projects. Proceeds are placed in a Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund by school districts. The amount that may be levied for cybersecurity projects is subject to the $.03 cap on the total amount that may be levied for all abatement projects. 


LB525 (Morfeld) Change distribution provisions related to the Education Innovation Fund

NSEA Position: Support

Changes the allocation of lottery proceeds from the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund beginning in FY2017-18. The bill provides that 1% of the lottery proceeds from the fund are to be allocated for the Master Teacher Program. The bill also reduces the allocation from the fund for competitive innovative education grants by 1%, from 17% to 16% of the total. Based upon estimated lottery funds for FY18 and FY19, it is assumed that approximately $215,600 of lottery funds will be deposited in Master Teacher Program Fund in FY18 and $186,100 in FY19.

LB575 (Kolowski) Provide funding for schools offering certain programs and courses as prescribed

NSEA Position: Support

Pertains to programs of excellence offered by school districts. A program of excellence is a nationally recognized program offered in high school grades that includes a curriculum and pedagogy, professional development for teachers and a rigorous external assessment. The bill establishes a new aid program of $2 million and requires NDE to provide funding for programs of excellence.

Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017

Revenue Committee – Room 1524 (1:30 pm)

LB640 (Groene) Change provisions of the Property Tax Credit Act and provide school dist. tax relief

NSEA Position: Monitor

Changes the maximum levy for school districts from $1.05 per one-hundred dollars of taxable valuation to $1.00. Dept. of Revenue is to calculate and distribute school district property tax relief aid to each local system that qualifies. A local system qualifies for such aid when its general fund property tax receipts exceed 60% of its total general fund revenue. Requires that the property tax gap for each local system that qualifies for school district property tax relief shall equal the general fund property tax receipts minus 60% of the total general fund revenue for the system.