Legislative Updates

NSEA Legislative Update - May 26, 2017

 

Today’s Message:

  1. 2017 Legislative Session Comes to a Close
  2. Revenue Committee Advances Private School Choice Tax Credit
  3. Voluntary Separation Agreements & The Budget Lid
  4. Education Related Changes Approved by Governor
  5. Education Related Bills Advanced to General and Select File
  6. Education Related Bills Held in Committee

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

For a list of all priority bills, click here.

For a list of all 2017 interim studies, click here.

 

2017 Legislative Session Comes to a Close

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned this week, sine die on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.  It was a tumultuous session, rife with spending cuts to make up for an almost $1.2 billion shortfall in revenue.  One narrative appeared to underscore the entire session – targeting both a teacher’s ability to work after retirement and their defined benefit pension plan.

 

Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, targeted the ability of teachers to work following retirement and advocated harsh new restrictions on teaching for three years following retirement if a teacher accepted a voluntary separation agreement.  He was unsuccessful in his effort due to the efforts of NSEA and other education groups.

In LB415, Kolterman sought and won an increase in the minimum retirement age for school employees hired on or after July 1, 2018. Currently, members can retire with full benefits at 55 with 30 years of service, under the Rule of 85. With these new changes, new members hired next summer will only be able to retire with full benefits at the age of 60 with 25 years of service, under this new Rule of 85.

Kolterman’s sought another restriction to teaching after retirement; eliminating the exceptions for intermittent employment during the 180-day period. This provision failed after a six-hour floor fight lead by Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont, on behalf of NSEA and other groups, culminating in the removal of both the three-year restriction period for receiving an early retirement inducement, and keeping the exceptions for intermittent work during the 180-day period following retirement.

As a result, a school member is still able to provide both substitute and volunteer service during the 180-day following retirement, if the service is provided on an intermittent basis.  The word “Intermittent” is defined as not happening regularly or continuously; stopping and starting repeatedly or with long periods in between. NSEA cautions retired members not to work more than twenty days during this 180-day period.

In addition, an unsuccessful attempt was made by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, to defund the money contributed by the state to both school employees’ retirement plans. Currently, the state contributes 2% of all school pay to the plans, representing $45.3 million. Linehan equated that the cuts made by the Governor’s line item vetoes curtailing disability and other programs this session, could have been offset by this 2% state contribution. Linehan indicated that she would be targeting this funding during next year’s legislative session.

Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, targeted the ability of school districts to provide voluntary separation agreements (also known as early retirement inducements).  LB457 introduced by Briese and later amended into LB512, sought to eliminate all voluntary separation agreements from being exempted from the budget cap and levy rate lids.  A complete elimination of these exemptions would have made it very difficult for schools to continue to provide such agreements.

After intense floor debate led by Sen. Burke Harr on behalf of NSEA and other groups, Briese agreed to a three-year phase out for voluntary separation agreement amounts outside of the lids specifically for teachers in excess of $35,000, and thereafter, permitting voluntary separation agreements to continue outside of the lids if such agreements are only for teachers and the total amount paid out to a teacher does not exceed $35,000.

Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings and Governor Ricketts, targeted funding for the Master Teacher Program. LB214 introduced by Halloran, attempted to terminate the Master Teacher Program on July 1, 2017, but the bill was held in the Education Committee. The program directly promotes enhanced professionalism for teachers in the classroom, by helping educators pay for National Board Certification training and paying annual stipends to teachers who have achieved such certification.

However, the Governor was successful in cutting future funding for the program for the upcoming two-year budget period. Teachers who are in the process of obtaining certification will continue to be reimbursed for a portion of their expenses, and there may be additional stipends issued this year as well.  Once NSEA has additional information from the Nebraska Department of Education on how it will expend these funds, we will get that information to members.

Finally, in a session filled with tough budget cuts, state aid to education received an increase, although it was a reduction from what had been expected. Spending for TEEOSA totaled $998.7 million for FY2017-18 (a 1.98% increase from the prior year), and $1.03 billion for FY2018-19 (a 2.74% increase). The amount for FY2017-18 represents a $48 million decrease from what was previously required by law before the Legislature changed the appropriation. To account for this change, the TEEOSA formula was adjusted in LB409.

Recently, the Nebraska Department of Education has certified state aid for 2017-18. You can check the amount for each school district and the state as a whole by clicking on this link: https://www.education.ne.gov/FOS/SchoolFinance/StateAid/Index.html

 

Revenue Committee Advances Private School Choice Tax Credit

During the final days of the 2017 session, the Revenue Committee advanced LB295 to General File, meaning the bill will be scheduled for debate in 2018. The move was taken at the urging of Sen. Lou Ann Linehan and the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jim Smith. The bill is essentially a tax credit for wealthy individuals and corporations who donate money to fund scholarships for private schools.

If enacted, LB295 creates nonrefundable income tax credits for contributions to a scholarship-granting organization that provides education scholarships to eligible students to attend private schools in Nebraska. The same basic credits would be available to individuals (resident and non-resident), pass-through entities, estates or trusts, and corporations.

The bill advanced with a committee amendment, AM1418, placing limits on the amount of the credit for various taxpayers for the 2019 tax year. The total amount of credits would be capped initially at $2 million. Each subsequent tax year the amount of the cap would be indexed for inflation and could be increased by 20 percent if the prior year's intended tax credits exceed 95 percent of the prior year's annual limit. The annual limit could not exceed $10 million in any tax year.

Currently, a donor may take a deduction on their federal return for a gift to a private school, but such donation only results in a fractional reduction of their federal and state income tax for every $1 contributed.  With the tax credit included in LB295, a donor would receive $1 of reduced state tax liability for every $1 donated.  If a donor’s state tax liability is $1,000, then he or she could contribute $1,000 to a private school, and then pay no state income tax.  Essentially, this results in a donor redirecting $1,000 from the state’s general fund, and then redistributing it to a private school.  In other words, the state could directly pay a private school $1,000, and it would be the same result.

Lastly, because the tax credit is fully deductible, a contribution under the program would allow people to make additional money from their donations by claiming a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state tax returns and then deducting the gift as a charitable donation on their federal tax returns.

 

Voluntary Separation Agreements & The Budget Lid

As mentioned above, by the enactment of LB512 (with LB457 amended into the bill) state lawmakers voted to cap the amount of voluntary separation agreement (VSP) payouts as well as a school district’s ability to offer VSPs outside of the state-imposed budget lid. Originally the bill intended to eliminate all VSP paid outside of the budget cap and levy rate lid, but due to intense lobbying efforts of NSEA and other education groups, we were able to maintain some level of these VSP’s outside of the cap and lid going forward. During the legislative debate, NSEA submitted hundreds of messages from members against the VSP changes in LB512.

The legislation will require school districts that currently provide VSP’s in their collective bargaining agreements to set new board policy that meets the new parameters. For a VSP to be paid outside of the budget lid, there is a maximum payout of $35,000 allowable only for teachers. Payout amounts currently offered that are above the $35,000 cap for teachers must be phased out over a three-year period.

Regardless of this legislative change, school districts continue to have the ability to provide VSPs above $35,000 for all employees but such VSPs must be within a school district’s budget lid. NSEA will continue to work to reverse these VSP changes during the 2018 legislative session.

 

Education Related Changes Approved by Governor

LB22 (Scheer) Provide, change, and eliminate provisions relating to appropriations and reduce approp.

NSEA Position: Oppose defunding of Master Teacher Prog. (approved by the Governor on Feb. 15, 2017)

Deficit Appropriation bill includes an immediate cut of the Master Teacher Program funds $470,000 (on page 94, lines 16-19) from the Nebraska Department of Education’s budget for fiscal year 2016-17. The Master Teacher Program directly promotes enhanced professionalism of teachers in the classroom, by helping educators pay for National Board Certification training and paying stipends (up to $5,000 depending on availability of funds) to teachers who have achieved such certification.

LB29 (Kolterman) Eliminate the Class V School Employees Retirement Cash Fund

NSEA Position: Neutral (approved by the Governor on Mar. 29, 2017)

Eliminates an obsolete cash fund in state statute. The bill cleans up a provision that should have been removed last year after the adoption of LB 448 (2016), transferring investment authority from the Omaha School Employees Retirement System to the Nebraska Investment Council, the entity that also manages funds for the Nebraska School Employees Retirement System.

LB62 (Scheer) Eliminate prohibition on teachers wearing religious garb

NSEA Position: Support (approved by the Governor on Mar. 27, 2017)

Repeals Sections 79-898 and 79-899 which provide penalties for public school teachers and school board members convicted of misdemeanor offenses related to teachers wearing dress or garb indicating that the teacher is a member or adherent of any religious order, sect, or denomination. The penalties related to conviction may be up to $100 and the costs of prosecution. Teachers may also be committed to the county jail for up to 30 days.

LB119 (Groene) Change dates related to certifications and distributions of state aid to schools

NSEA Position: Neutral (approved by the Governor on Feb. 15, 2017)

Changes the date for NDE to certify state aid to schools for FY2017-18, pursuant to TEEOSA, from on or before March 1, 2017 to on or before June 1, 2017. The bill has no fiscal impact in terms of the amount of state aid allocated to schools in FY2017-18 because the formula to allocate state aid is unchanged.

LB123 (Pansing Brooks) Provide for reimbursement when certain postsecondary inst. terminate operations

NSEA Position: Monitor (amended into LB512)

Creates the Guaranty Recovery Cash Fund to be administered by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. The bill directs CCPE to annually assess applicable for-profit postsecondary institutions one-tenth of one percent of the prior school year’s gross tuition revenue until the Guaranty Recovery Cash Fund reaches a minimum level of $250,000. The bill further provides that the fund is to be maintained at a minimum level of $250,000 and a maximum level of $500,000.

LB175 (Morfeld) Adopt the Student Online Personal Protection Act

NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB512)

Identifies practices that are prohibited or may not be engaged in by operators of Internet web sites, online applications or services, or mobile applications which are used primarily for elementary, middle school or high school purposes. The bill also provides requirements that are to be met by operators to protect student information. The bill does not identify any entity to enforce the requirements of the bill. School districts and operators of web sites and computer applications will need to structure agreements in compliance with the requirements of the bill. It is assumed contracts that adhere to the requirements of the bill can be handled with existing resources of school districts entering into such agreements.

LB235 (Walz) Clarify grant requirements for the Summer Food Service Program

NSEA Position: Monitor (amended into LB512)

Changes provisions in the Summer Food Service Program. The bill provides that the full cost of qualifying expenses incurred by a sponsor in initiating or expanding the services in a summer food service program will qualify as an expense, and need not be prorated, if the funds are expended solely for child nutrition programs. Currently, the state aid program provides competitive grants of up to $15,000 to sponsors of summer food programs. Grants are used for nonrecurring expenses incurred in initiating or expanding services, including but not limited to, the acquisition of equipment, salaries of staff, training, outreach efforts, minor alternations to accommodate new equipment, point of service computer systems for food service and the purchase of vehicles for transporting food to sites.

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

NSEA Position: Neutral (approved by Governor on May 15, 2017)

Contains the Governor’s recommendation for 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 includes $998.7 million (1.98% increase) for FY2017-18 from the prior year, and $1.03 billion (2.74% increase) for FY2018-19. However, this amount for FY2017-18 represents a $48 million decrease from what state law previously required this year. The TEEOSA formula was adjusted in LB409 to account for this decrease in spending. Funding for the Master Teacher Program was not continued for the biennium budget period.

LB398 (Wayne) Provide requirements for public school districts relating to swimming activities

NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB512)

Requires swimming instructors or lifeguards employed by school districts to be certified by a nationally recognized aquatic training program in swimming instruction, first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and drowning risk prevention. The bill requires annual recertification.

LB409 (Groene) Change the base limitation and local effort rate for school districts

NSEA Position: Neutral (approved by Governor on May 10, 2017)

Changes the formula which provides state aid to schools pursuant to TEEOSA. The base limitation rate or allowable growth rate in the aid formula is decreased by 2.5% from 2.5% to 0% for FY2017-18 and FY2018-19. Thechangeintheratedecreasesthecostgrowthfactorintheformulawhichisusedto inflate school district expenditures for purposes of calculating aid. increases the local effort rate to $1.01 in each fiscal year.  The local effort rate in the formula is currently set at $1.00 for FY18 and FY19.  Amended by AM955.  Reduces previously certified TEEOSA funding by $48.2 million in FY2017-18, and $75.1 million in FY2018-19.

LB415 (Kolterman) Changes benefits for certain retirement system members

NSEA Position: Oppose (appd. Gov. May 23, 2017 w/ LB31, LB32, LB110, LB219, LB278, LB413, LB532)

Provides that an employee who is a member of the School or Class V School Retirement Plans and retires may not be re-employed by an employer associated with any of the retirement plans cited within 180 days with no exceptions. Currently, there are exceptions for intermittent employment during the 180-day period. Provides that a member receiving a voluntary separation agreement would be prohibited from employment within three years following retirement.  Members who return to work following retirement would have a ten-year vesting period rather than the current five-year period. Also, provides that for members of the School and Class V Plans hired on or after July 1, 2017, the retirement age with full benefits will be 60 with 30 years of service, under the Rule of 90. Currently, members can retire with full benefits at 55 with 30 years of service, under the Rule of 85. NOTE: Amended by AM923 and AM1374.  Removed three-year restriction period for receiving an early retirement inducement, leaves in statute the intermittent work exception during the 180-day period following retirement, and keeps the 5-year vesting period for members returning to work after retirement.

LB427 (Vargas) Require breastfeeding accommodations for student-parents

NSEA Position: Support (approved by Governor on May 8, 2017; with LB428)

Requires public, private, denominational or parochial schools to provide for private or appropriate facilities or accommodation for milk expression and storage for students attending such schools who are mothers.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide a place, other than a bathroom, for employees to express breast milk which is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to the requirements, if the employer would have significant difficulty or expense. Amended by AM908 to clarify staff authority to regulate student behavior to prevent interference with the educational process.

LB428 (Vargas) Require schools and NDE to adopt policies relating to pregnant and parenting students

NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB427)

Requires NDE to develop and distribute a model policy to ensure the educational success of pregnant and parenting students on or before December 1, 2017. The bill specifies minimum policies that should be required of school districts. Beginning, May 1, 2017, school districts are required to adopt written policies to accommodate pregnant and parenting students which include procedures and provisions in conformance with the minimum standards set forth in the model policy developed by NDE. The new policies are to go into effect at the start of the FY2018-19 school year. NDE is also required to offer training for teachers, counselors, and administrators on adopted policies and on the rights of pregnant and parenting students to receive a quality education.

LB457 (Briese) Change exceptions to levy and budget exceptions for voluntary termination agreements.

NSEA Position: Oppose (amended into LB512)

Changes the calculation of state aid to schools pursuant to TEEOSA. The bill changes the definition of general fund operating expenditures in the school aid formula and changes levy and budget limitations regarding voluntary termination agreements. Current law provides that GFOE does not include expenditures for voluntary termination agreements paid by a school district to certificated employees to the extent that a district can demonstrate that an agreement will result in a net savings in salaries and benefits over a five-year period. NOTE: changes were made by AM1346 and AM970 in LB512.

LB512 (Educ Cmmt) Change provisions related to education

NSEA Position: Oppose LB457 (appd. by Gov. May 22, 2017; with LB457, LB175, LB398, LB235, LB123)

NDE Technically Bill. Eliminates outdated language and limitation of a specific fiscal year that NDE may use improvement funds for the ACT, permits “current year” application for Enrollment Option Program, extends the date for completion of the assessment of every public school building by the NDE state school security director by 2 years to reflect budget cuts, include language required under current federal law for Perkins career and technical education, permits a school board to designate someone else to carry out the duties set forth in that section of statute for the secretary of the school board, permits NDE to utilize state funds for special education for a specific school district to repay the US Dept. of Education for that school district's failure to meet federal maintenance of effort requirements for IDEA instead of the school district having to send state funds to NDE and then NDE having to send those state funds to US Dept. of Education, and other provisions. NOTE: AM1346 and AM970 were adopted; provides a four-year phase out for voluntary separation agreement amounts outside of the lids specifically for teachers in excess of $35,000, and thereafter, permits voluntary separation agreement amounts outside of the lids specifically for teachers up to $35,000.

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

NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB415)

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.

LB645 (Pansing Brooks) Add dyslexia for purpose of special education

NSEA Position: Support (approved by Governor on May 10, 2017)

Defines dyslexia as a specific learning disability. The State Department of Education indicates the inclusion of the definition of dyslexia in statute does not require the provision of special education services for children with this disability because it is not a verified disability category per Section 79-1138. Amended by AM106; this is a technical amendment that on page 3, line 4, after "disability" adds "under subdivision (13) of this section." This ties the technical definition of dyslexia to the list of specific learning disabilities.

 

Education Related Bills Advanced to General and Select File

LB44 (Watermeier) Adopt the Remote Seller Sales Tax Collection Act

NSEA Position: Support (on Select File – AM1074 filed)

Provides that a remote seller shall be subject to Nebraska sales tax and shall remit the sales tax due if they meet either of the following conditions: (1) their gross revenue from the sale of tangible personal property, products delivered electronically, and services delivered into Nebraska exceeds $100,000 in the current or previous calendar year; or (2) Their sales transactions equaled or exceeded 200 separate transactions in the current or previous calendar year. A remote seller is defined as any person who sells tangible personal property, products delivered electronically, or services for delivery into Nebraska and who does not have a physical presence in this state.

LB124 (Baker) Increase the probationary period of community college staff

NSEA Position: Oppose (on General File)

Extend the probationary period for community college teaching staff. Currently this probationary period is the first two years of employment. Would change the probationary period to the first three years.

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

NSEA Position: Support (on General File)

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.

LB295 (Smith) Adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and provide tax credits

NSEA Position: Oppose (on General File with AM1418; AM1420 and AM1421 filed)

Creates nonrefundable income tax credits for contributions to a scholarship-granting organization that provides education scholarships to eligible students to attend a private school in Nebraska. The same basic credits would be available to individuals (resident and non-resident), pass-through entities, estates or trusts, and corporations. AM1418 imposes limits on the amount of the credit for various taxpayers as follows for tax year 2019. The total amount of credits for tax year 2019 is capped at $2 million. Each subsequent tax year the amount of the cap is indexed for inflation and may also be increased by 20 percent if the prior year's intended tax credits exceed 95 percent of the prior year's annual limit. The annual limit may not exceed $10 million in any tax year.

LB377 (Education Cmmt) Change provisions relating to classification of school districts.

NSEA Position: Monitor (on General File)

Eliminates provisions in current law related to Class I and Class VI school districts. The bill also provides that existing Class II school districts will become Class III school districts with the passage of the bill.

LB461 (Smith) Correct references to a federal act in the revenue state (Now Governor’s Tax Cut Plan)

NSEA Position: Oppose (on General File; with LB337, LB338, LB452)

As amended cuts the top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.99% depending on forecasted growth. If forecasted growth for upcoming year is greater than 3.5%, a reduction in the top rate is “triggered.” the wealthiest Nebraskans and offers little to no tax cut for middle-class Nebraskans. Cuts the corporate income tax rate from 7.81% to 5.99%. Provides that agricultural land and horticultural land shall be valued at its agricultural use value regardless of any value which such land might have for other purposes. Requires that agricultural use value be used for purposes of TEEOSA. When fully implemented, the bill will cut revenue to state government by $439.5 million annually.

LB490 (Walz) Adopt the College Choice Grant Program Act

NSEA Position: Monitor (on General File with AM722)

Adopts the College Choice Grant Program Act to be administered by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. Under the act, financial aid awards are to be made to eligible students. Administration of financial aid awards is to be undertaken by the Commission in conjunction with eligible postsecondary educational institutions. Under provisions of the bill, eligible postsecondary institutions are defined as nonprofit institutions not controlled or administered by any state agency or political subdivision which are in Nebraska and are accredited by a regional accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Eligible students are defined to include full or part-time students who are Nebraska residents eligible to receive U.S. Department of Education Title IV student financial assistance.

LB595 (Groene) Provide for the use of physical force, restraint or removal in response to student behavior

NSEA Position: Support (on General File with AM581)

Allows teachers and administrators to use necessary force or physical restraint to subdue the student until such student no longer presents a danger to him or herself, the teacher or administrator, or other students. Allows the teacher or administrator to use physical restraint to protect school property. Allows teachers to remove a student who repeatedly interfered with the teacher’s ability to teach, or whose behavior is so disruptive that it seriously interferes with the class' ability to learn, or who commits other disruptive acts, punishable in the Student Discipline Act. The administration can then place the student in another classroom, in-school suspension or into alternative education programs. The student cannot be returned to the original classroom without the teacher’s permission. NSEA will work with the Committee and school administrators on further study and action on the serious issue of violence in our schools.

LB634 (Wayne) Include virtual school students in the state aid to schools formula

NSEA Position: Monitor (on General File)

Provides that virtual schools and virtual school programs must: be offered by a school district for credit; use primarily internet-based methods to deliver instruction; involve asynchronous instruction; require students to demonstrate subject matter competency and to progress toward the next grade level or high school graduation; and, require completion of state assessment tests. A virtual student is defined to be a student who is a resident of the state enrolled in and attending a virtual school on at least a part-time basis.

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

NSEA Position: Oppose (on General File with AM992)

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. AM752 and AM992 filed.

LB651 (Linehan) Adopt the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act

NSEA Position: Oppose (on General File)

Requires school districts to develop individual reading improvement plans for students in kindergarten through grade three no later than 30 days after a deficiency in reading is identified based upon state-approved local or statewide assessments. The plan is to be created by the teacher, principal, other pertinent school personnel and the parents of the student. Students with a plan are to receive intensive reading intervention services until the student no longer has a reading deficiency. Beginning 2019, if a student’s reading deficiency is not remedied by the end of grade three, the student must be retained in that grade. Schools are required to provide summer reading camps for all grade three students scoring below grade level on the grade three statewide reading assessment. Schools also must provide retained students with intensive reading intervention programs. Intensive acceleration classes must also be provided for students who are retained in the third grade and who were also retained in an earlier grade.

 

Education Related Bills Held in Committee

LB14 (Krist) Require successful completion of a civics exam as a prerequisite to high school graduation

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Requires every high school student to correctly answer at least 70% of the questions on the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as a prerequisite to graduation beginning in the FY2018-19 school year. Schools may determine the method and way to administer the test. A student may take the test, in whole or in part, at any time beginning in the ninth grade and may repeat the test or portions of the test as often as needed to achieve the required score. Students with individualized education plans may be exempted from the requirement. No fees may be collected to provide the test. The bill provides a directive for all schools to secure and provide the required test. There is no requirement for NDE to be involved in test procurement or collection of data relative to the test. There is also no penalty for schools if provisions of the bill are not followed.

LB30 (Kolterman) Provide for cash balance benefit plan for Lincoln and Omaha police or firefighters

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Retirement Committee)

Provides that after some date, metropolitan and primary class cities may only offer a cash balance benefit plan to police officers and firefighters hired on or after that date. The fiscal impact cannot be determined without knowing the specific provisions of the cash balance benefit plan.

LB58 (Craighead) Change provisions relating to participation in extracurricular activities

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Requires school boards to establish policies and procedures to allow students from schools which elect not to meet approval and accreditation requirements (exempt home schools) to participate in extracurricular activities and events. The policies may require such students to enroll in no more than one course offered for credit by the school district. Such students will not be eligible for transportation, except to or from practices or events, to the same extent as public school students.

LB103 (Murante) Change provisions relating to accelerated or differentiated curriculum

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Requires school districts within a learning community which provide an approved accelerated or differentiated curriculum program to establish a high-ability learners’ focus group. The focus group is to consist of parents, teachers, administrators and may include a representative from a statewide high ability learners’ organization. The focus group is to be provided information regarding high ability learner programs and student participation in such and is to annually review data and expenditures on the programs. NDE is to adopt rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the bill.

LB109 (Blood) Provide for a temporary teaching certificate or permit for military spouses

NSEA Position: Neutral (held in Education Committee)

Authorizes NDE to issue a temporary certificate or permit to teach to a military spouse who meets certain requirements specified in the bill pending issuance of a permanent certificate or permit. The temporary certificate or permit is valid for six months.

LB118 (Hilkemann) Adopt the Education Savings Account Act and provide income tax adjustments

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Revenue Committee)

Allows the parent or legal guardian of a student attending an eligible school to establish an education savings account with a financial institution and designate the beneficiary of the account. The account shall be used to pay the qualified education expenses of the designated beneficiary of the account. Eligible school is defined as a public, private, denominational, or parochial school which provides education for students in any grades kindergarten through grade twelve and meets the requirements for legal operation or elects not to meet accreditation or approval requirements. Any natural person, firm, partnership, limited liability company, association, or corporation may contribute up to $2,000 per calendar year, in cash, to an account.

LB144 (Friesen) Change agricultural adjusted valuations for calculating state aid to schools

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Changes the allocation of state aid to schools per TEEOSA beginning in FY2018-19. The bill reduces the value of agricultural and horticultural land for state aid purposes. The current value of agricultural land used to calculate local resources in the state aid formula is 72%. LB 144 annually reduces the agricultural land value used from 72% to 20% over a four-year period.

LB155 (Brasch) Require successful completion of a civics exam as a prerequisite to high school graduation

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee; AM676 filed)

Requires every high school student to correctly answer at least 70% of the questions on the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services as a prerequisite to graduation beginning in the FY2018-19 school year. Schools may determine the method and way to administer the test. A student may take the test, in whole or in part, at any time beginning in the ninth grade and may repeat the test or portions of the test as often as needed to achieve the required score. Students with individualized education plans may be exempted from the requirement. No fees may be collected to provide the test. The bill provides a directive for all schools to secure and provide the required test. There is no requirement for NDE to be involved in test procurement or collection of data relative to the test, and no penalty for schools if provisions of the bill are not followed.

LB169 (Wayne) Exempt social security benefits and retirement income from income taxation

NSEA Position: Neutral (held in Revenue Committee)

Excludes certain retirement benefits from the calculation of Nebraska income tax by allowing reductions to federal adjusted gross income (AGI) for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2018, by the total amount of those benefits. The estimated fiscal impact in FY2017-18 is $106.2 million and in FY2018-19 is $260.7 million.

LB174 (Morfeld) Adopt the Apprenticeship Training Program Tax Credit Act

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Provide employers income tax credits for providing apprenticeship programs which meet Federal standards. The tax credit is to be in an amount that is equal to one dollar multiplied by the total number of hours expected to be worked by an apprentice as part of a qualified apprenticeship program during the following calendar year. The total amount of credits available in a taxable year is capped at $2.5 million for all claimants. Tax credits not fully used may be carried over until fully utilized. Applications for the credit are to be considered in the order in which they received.

LB214 (Halloran) Terminate the Master Teacher Program

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Terminates the Master Teacher Program on July 1, 2017. The Legislature has previously appropriated $500,000 of general funds for the program in the past two fiscal years. Aid is distributed to pay registration awards for teachers who opt to obtain National Board Certification and a salary bonus for teachers who have the credential. Currently, individuals seeking certification may apply to NDE to receive a registration award in the amount of 50% of the fees. When an individual completes the program, and receives a master teacher designation, they may apply for the other half of the registration fees. After the registration fees are reimbursed, the remainder of the appropriated funds are to be used for a $5,000 salary bonus for teachers who have the credential. If funds are not sufficient, then salary bonuses are to be prorated.

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

NSEA Position: Support (held in Education Committee)

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. 


LB265 (Friesen) Provide for minimum amount of state aid based on number of students in local system

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Changes the amount of state aid allocated per TEEOSA. The bill provides that each school district will receive at least a specified minimum amount of state aid per formula student beginning in FY2018-19. Based upon the calculation of state aid per the formula for the FY2017-18 school year, LB 265 will increase state aid allocated to schools by an estimated $71.8 million in FY19 and $152.6 million in FY20.

LB270 (Kolowski) Appropriate funds to the State Department of Education

NSEA Position: Support (held in Appropriations Committee)

Appropriates $750,000 of general funds in FY2017-18 and $750,000 of general funds in FY2018-19 to the State Department of Education (NDE) for the Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) Grant Program Act.

LB305 (Crawford) Adopt the Paid Family Medical Leave Act

NSEA Position: Support (held in Business and Labor Committee)

Provide a covered individual (as defined by the bill) with paid family medical leave for: care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster care placement; leave during the covered individual’s serious illness or pregnancy; care for a family member who has a serious health condition; care for a covered service member who is next of kin; and for qualifying exigency leave (as defined in the bill). A covered individual shall be entitled to take this leave beginning April 1, 2020.

LB308 (Brasch) Change provisions relating to the committee on Americanism

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee; AM675 filed)

Expands the duties for school districts regarding a committee on Americanism. School boards in the state are currently required to annually designate three board members as a committee on Americanism. The bill requires the committee to hold at least three public meetings each year and at least one meeting shall allow for public testimony. Minutes of meetings are required to be taken and curriculum recommended or approved by the committee is to be made readily accessible to the public.

LB326 (Kolowski) Provide additional budget and tax levy authority for certain school districts

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Provides that any school district for which the calculation of total disbursements divided by the average daily membership for the most recently available complete data year is below the statewide median of such calculation for all school districts may levy up to an additional three cents per one hundred dollars of taxable valuation of property subject to the levy if such additional levy is approved for each fiscal year by a two-thirds majority vote of the school board after a public hearing.

LB337 (Smith) Change income tax rates and provide deferrals of rate changes

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Revenue Committee; amended into LB461)

Cuts the top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.99% depending on forecasted growth. If forecasted growth for upcoming year is greater than 3.5%, a reduction in the top rate is “triggered.” the wealthiest Nebraskans and offers little to no tax cut for middle-class Nebraskans. The average nominal tax cut for the middle class would be $39, while the average tax cut for wealthiest one percent of Nebraskans would be $5,810.  By FY27-28, the tax cuts are projected annually to be over $287.9 million.

LB338 (Brasch) Adopt the Agricultural Valuation Fairness Act

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Revenue Committee; amended into LB461)

Provides that agricultural land and horticultural land shall be valued at its agricultural use value regardless of any value which such land might have for other purposes. Requires that agricultural use value be used for purposes of TEEOSA. Agricultural use value is defined as the value of land for agricultural or horticultural purposes or uses without regard to the value of such land for other purposes or uses and that this value shall be determined by the county assessor using an income-approach calculation.

LB373 (Schumacher) Change and eliminate revenue and taxation provisions

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Repeals, phases out or reduces a number of tax exemptions and incentive programs, enacted in the past ten years including: phase out Sports Arena bonding and tax incentives; repeal Build Nebraska Act (.25% sales tax for roads), Ag land valuation increased to 80%, repeal personal property tax relief exemptions, community development projects bonding and tax exemptions, re-instates the state estate tax, building construction materials sales tax exemption, manufacturing materials, re-instates tax on admission and fees collected by non-profits, and Nebraska Advantage tax credits and exemptions.

LB396 (Morfeld) Change residency provisions relating to postsecondary educational institutions

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Changes the determination of residency for state postsecondary institutions. Provides that if a student has received an associate, bachelors, masters, doctoral degree, or the equivalent from any accredited college or university in the State of Nebraska, they would be considered a resident. The University of Nebraska indicates there are 3 major categories of these non-resident students – 1. Those that transfer from the State College System or from a Community College; 2. Those that transfer from a state institution to the University of Nebraska Medical Center; and 3. Those that transfer from any accredited college or university to the University of Nebraska for graduate and professional programs.

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

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Retirement Committee)

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.

LB443 (Bolz) Adopt the Student Loan Repayment Tax Credit Act

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Establish a non-refundable tax credit of 50% of student loan repayments made on behalf of an employee by an employer. Each employer is eligible for the credit up to $1,800 per employee, and may qualify for the credit for up to 20 employees per business. The bill reserves 25% of the allowed credit for small businesses with 30 or fewer employees and/or businesses located in a city of the first or second class or village in Nebraska. The bill permits for credits of $1.5 million per fiscal year.

LB453 (Lindstrom) Change provisions relating to income tax adjustments for social security benefits

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Amends the Nebraska Revenue Act regarding a reduction of federal adjusted gross income (AGI) for Nebraska income tax purposes. Raises threshold incomes to account for inflation, phases tax out over five years, eliminates cliff effect. The estimated fiscal impact in FY2018-19 is $3.3 million and in FY2019-20 is $11.7 million.

LB465 (Watermeier) Appropriate funds to the State Department of Education

NSEA Position: Support (held in Appropriations Committee)

Appropriate $500,000 in each year of the biennium for the Nebraska Information Technology (IT) Initiative under the Center for Student Leadership and Expanded Learning Act. The Nebraska IT is a partnership with NDE, Nebraska Career and Technical Education, Microsoft and Certiport. The Nebraska IT Initiative provides students with information technology skills that they will need for entering a post-secondary institution or the workforce.

LB484 (Kolowski) Create the School Financing Review Commission

NSEA Position: Support (held in Education Committee)

Establishes the School Financing Review Commission consisting of twenty 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. Members of the Commission are eligible for the reimbursement of actual and necessary expenses. The Commission ceases to exist on December 31, 2026. A progress report is required by December 31, 2017 and a final report is to be presented by December 1, 2018. Thereafter, reports are required in each even-numbered year regarding the adequacy of school funding sources beginning in July of 2020.

LB503 (Brewer) Prohibit certain provisions in collective-bargaining agreements

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Business and Labor Committee)

Any collective bargaining agreement involving a public employer shall not contain provisions requiring or allowing the deduction of union dues from a public employee’s wages. Also, a public employer shall not deduct union dues from the wages of a public employee.

LB511 (Educ Cmmt) Changes for payment of educ. costs in homes for state wards and students

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Amends sections pertaining to the Education of State Wards. Reorganizes a section of statute to clarify who pays for certain students in "out of home" for state ward placements as between NDE and the DHHS; requires that a "Best Interest of Child" determination be made before removing a child who is in an out of home placement from their school; amends section 79-215 to include the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), and the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions act of 2008 that both require states to provide educational stability when a child is removed from the home.

LB521 (Walz) Change provisions related to early childhood education in TEEOSA

NSEA Position: Support (held in Education Committee)

Provide incentives to consider higher quality and longer periods of time for pre-schools. Would do the following: all districts, rather than only equalized districts and Learning Community would be available for state assistance; early childhood education students would be weighted at eighty percent of a student, rather than the current sixty percent; equalized districts would be paid through TEEOSA, and non-equalized districts would be paid through an early childhood education allowance; allows for funds to be consorted through Educational Service Units to increase probability for pre-schools if number of students and/or resulting funds are not enough for stand-alone programs; and schools would be eligible to receive fifty percent of additional transportation costs.

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

NSEA Position: Support (held in Education Committee)

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.

LB540 (Stinner) Provide for a temporary aid adjustment factor in TEEOSA

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Changes the formula which provides state aid to schools pursuant to TEEOSA in FY2017-18 and FY2018-19. Modifies the calculation of formula need in TEEOSA aid by providing for a temporary aid adjustment factor. provides for a temporary aid adjustment factor to be used to adjust formula need for school districts in FY18 and FY19. The bill does not specify the percentage adjustment. The bill also establishes a cap on the amount of formula need that may be reduced per the temporary aid adjustment factor to be no more than the amount of preliminary allocated income taxes plus net option funding calculated for a district. A decrease in formula needs for school districts reduces the amount of state equalization aid provided.

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

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Retirement Committee)

Proposes to consolidate the Omaha School Employees Retirement Plan (OSERS) with the School Employees Retirement Plan beginning July 1, 2020. OSERS Plan members transferred to the statewide School Plan would continue to receive the benefits provided under the current OSERS Plan. Omaha Public School employees hired on or after July 1, 2020 will be members of the statewide School Plan and receive the same benefits as members of the statewide School Plan.

LB552 (Walz) Provise for the Children’s Connection program

NSEA Position: Support (held in Health and Human Services Committee)

Creates a Children’s Connection Program in each of the behavioral health regions. Each program shall be a partnership between the behavioral health region and Nebraska schools serving children in kindergarten through grade eight. The goals of the programs are to identify children with social and emotional difficulties and to work with parents, schools, and health care providers to provide timely, effective, and family-centered services to prevent child welfare or juvenile justice system involvement. Two million dollars each fiscal year shall be appropriated to DHHS for distribution to each of the behavioral health regions to establish the programs.

LB554 (Smith) Provide for the financial transparency web site for school districts and ESU’s

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Requires the State Board of Education to contract for the creation of a web site that, at a minimum, translates expenditures for schools, school districts and educational service units into a format that is readable by a layperson. The bill requires the establishment of an advisory committee on financial policies and procedures to work with NDE and the contracting entity. The web site is to be available before July 1, 2018 and is to be updated annually.

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

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Expands Nebraska's current sales tax base by imposing sales tax on certain services and eliminating certain sales tax exemptions. The bill would tax a broad array of services, rather than focusing narrowly on a small segment of those used by today's consumers. This would reflect the nature of our expanding services-based economy. The bill is projected to raise revenue of $28.8 million in FY2017-18 and $74.5 million in FY2018-19.

LB564 (McCollister) Adopt the Nebraska Main Street Fairness Act

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Provides that a remote seller shall be subject to Nebraska sales tax and shall remit the sales tax due if they meet either of the following conditions: (1) their gross revenue from the sale of tangible personal property, products delivered electronically, and services delivered into Nebraska exceeds $25,000 in the current or previous calendar year; or (2) their sales transactions equaled or exceeded 200 separate transactions in the current or previous calendar year. A remote seller is defined as any person who sells tangible personal property, products delivered electronically, or services for delivery into Nebraska and who does not have a physical presence in this state.

LB568 (Groene) Change provisions related to temporary teaching certificates

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee; AM150 filed)

Creates a new temporary teaching certificate for substitute teachers for both private and public schools. An applicant must meet the following requirements: 1) be at least 21 years of age; 2) possess a valid high school diploma; 3) complete 24 hours of in-service training; 4) complete ten hours of classroom observation at each educational level, elementary, middle school, and high school; 5) complete a course and pass an exam on the United States Constitution and on the Nebraska Constitution; 6) submit to fingerprinting for a criminal background check; and 7) complete an application and pay the required fee.

LB569 (Friesen) Establish the Community College Task Force and sunset community college levies

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Establishes a nine-member Community College Task Force for evaluating duplication of educational services and funding sources for community colleges. The task force is to develop a report by December1,2018 outlining findings related to duplication of educational services, cost of funding duplicate services, and cost of outstanding bond obligations. The report is also to recommend alternative funding mechanisms for community colleges. The task force would terminate on January 1, 2020.

LB571 (Friesen) Change state aid for education relating to allocated income tax funds

NSEA Position: Monitor (held in Education Committee)

Changes the calculation of the amount of allocated income taxes in the state aid formula per TEEOSA. Beginning in the FY2018-19, the amount of allocated income taxes for a school district shall equal 20% of the aggregate statewide income tax liability of all resident individuals less the amount paid for option students. Currently, allocated income taxes for school districts are equal to 2.23% of aggregate income tax liability.

LB572 (Friesen) Termination dates for the Property Tax Credit Act and TEEOSA

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

The Property Tax Credit Act and the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act shall both terminate on January 1, 2020. Based on the current level of funding for the Property Tax Credit Act, the reduction in expenditures from the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund would be $224,000,000 in FY2020-21 with an increase in General Fund revenue of $224,000,000.

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

NSEA Position: Support (held in Education Committee)

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.

LB598 (Groene) Require consideration of certain factors by CIR when establishing wage rights

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Business and Labor Committee)

Requires consideration of certain factors such as a political subdivision's ability to pay by the Court of Industrial Relations when establishing wage rights, local demographic data, economic trends, private sector wages and benefits. Additional information will be collected from the Census Bureau, from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Nebraska Department of Labor, and from the local business community for consideration by the CIR in its findings.

LB608 (Linehan) Adopt the Parental Choice Scholarship Program

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

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.

LB630 (Larson) Adopt the Independent Public Schools Act

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Create a new category of public schools referred to as “independent public schools” (IPS) which are under the authority of a newly created commission, “Independent Public School Authorizing and Accountability Commission,” outside of NDE. IPS’s are authorized to operate by entering into a compact with either a public school district or the newly created commission. Once granted, the compact is in place for five-year terms. Each independent school must reapply no less than one year prior to the compact’s expiration. Each independent school must submit annual reports including a detailed financial statement. NDE is required to publish the annual report on its website.

LB633 (Kolowski) Authorize school districts to levy tax and exceed budget authority for security and tech.

NSEA Position: Support (held in Revenue Committee)

Provides that school districts may, upon a two-thirds majority vote of the school board of the school district, levy a maximum levy of one cent on each one hundred dollars of taxable property subject to the levy for school security measures. Also provides that school districts may, upon a two-thirds vote of the school board of the school district, levy a maximum levy of one cent on each one hundred dollars of taxable property subject to the levy for student technology expenditures.

LB650 (Linehan) Change provisions for teaching certificates

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Adds additional certificate options to teach in public schools upon passage of the appropriate subject area examination. Certificate options include: college credit earned; earned doctorate from a postsecondary educational institution; holding a teaching certificate issued by a national or regional educator-credentialing agency; and, completion of an alternative certification program. In addition, it creates an adjunct teaching certificate for applicants who have expertise in the subject area and fulfill the requirements of the rules and regulations. Expertise includes having sufficient content mastery as evidenced by passage of a subject area examination and limited to part-time teaching. Renewal contingent upon satisfactory performance evaluations.

LB662 (Linehan) Establish a grading system for schools and school districts

NSEA Position: Oppose (held in Education Committee)

Requires the State Board of Education to establish an accountability system with a scale from A to F measuring performance for schools and districts. Requires NDE to develop school awards for schools which improve at least one grade level or earn a grade of A. NDE is required to prepare annual reports of the results of the accountability system which describe student achievement in schools and districts. The department shall annually publish each school’s report on its web site. Each school earning a grade of A or having improved at least two grade levels shall have greater authority over the allocation of the school’s total budget, state categorical funds, grants and local funds as specified by NDE.