NSEA Legislative Update

Legislative Updates

NSEA Legislative Update – Friday, Feb. 23, 2018

In this Update:

  1. ACTION: Legislature to Debate LB295 – School Voucher Tax Scheme
  2. ACTION: Advance Walz’ Behavioral Health Plan
  3. Murante Would Eliminate State Board of Education
  4. Omaha Retirement Plan Bill Would Ease OPS Payments
  5. Upcoming Committee Hearings
  6. Review of Recent Committee Hearings
  7. List of 2018 Education Related Bills

 

Legislature Set to Debate LB295 – School Voucher Tax Scheme

The Nebraska Legislature is on the verge of debating a scheme that is the most serious voucher threat to school funding and state revenue in years.

LB295’s voucher scheme is an undisguised tax credit for wealthy individuals and corporations that donate money to fund scholarships at private schools. This scheme will drain needed funding from our Nebraska public schools.

Under the scholarship tax credit programs as created by LB295, public tax dollars are used to provide a tax benefit to those who make donations to private school scholarship granting organizations (SGOs), which in turn, provide scholarships to students in private K-12 schools. LB295 offers much greater tax benefits for donations to SGOs than do donations to all other nonprofits.

This bill allows people to actually profit from those donations by claiming a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state tax returns, and also deduct it as a charitable donation on federal tax returns. The cost to Nebraska starts at $2 million (first fiscal year) and will grow up to $10 million or more over time. The experience of other states is these programs grow quickly over time.

Creating a scholarship tax credit now would come at a time when our state’s school funding needs are increasing and when state funding of K-12 education has been constrained due to budget shortfalls. This low level of state support leads to a heavy reliance on property taxes to fund schools. Diverting more state resources for scholarship tax credits will make it harder to address state public education needs and increasingly shift the cost of funding K-12 onto property taxpayers.

Below are opportunities you can use to take action! We are updating our text message service, so if you have signed up in the past to receive text alerts, you will need to sign up again at www.nsea.org/text. You will need your NSEA identification number to submit the information (this gives your permission for us to send you messages, in compliance with FCC regulations).

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

Email your Senator Against LB 295:
http://cqrcengage.com/neane/app/write-a-letter?0&engagementId=430936

Sign up to receive text alerts from NSEA:
www.nsea.org/text

Sign the Petition Against LB 295:
http://cqrcengage.com/neane/app/sign-petition?1&engagementId=439394

Join and Share our Coalition on Facebook:  
www.facebook.com/notinnebraska/

 

Action Sought to Advance Walz’ Behavioral Health Plan

LB998 by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz creates the Collaborative School Behavioral and Mental Health Program in Nebraska’s 19 Educational Service Units. Under the plan, a social worker will staff each ESU and would connect students with local mental health and behavioral health services. The social worker would meet with families, assess needs, identify barriers to services, and assist with making connections to resources that exist within the community.

Behavioral and mental health needs of students are frequently identified in a school setting and affect the ability of teachers to teach and the ability of students to learn. Superintendents, principals, and other school personnel in Nebraska ranked the availability of people to provide behavioral and mental health services as the number one support need for schools in 2017.

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED! LB998 is on the agenda next week in the Education Committee executive session.  The bill has been prioritized and needs to be voted out of committee.  Please tell Education Committee senators why they need to take behavioral and mental health in schools seriously and support LB998!  Please thank Senator Walz for introducing LB998!

Sen. Mike Groene, Chair       (402) 471-2729      mgroene@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Laura Ebke                     (402) 471-2711      lebke@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Steve Erdman                (402) 471-2616      serdman@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Rick Kolowski                 (402) 471-2327      rkolowski@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan           (402) 471-2885      llinehan@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Adam Morfeld                 (402) 471-2720      amorfeld@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks   (402) 471-2633      ppansingbrooks@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Lynne Walz                     (402) 471-2625      lwalz@leg.ne.gov

 

Murante Would Eliminate State Board of Education

Heard this week by the Education Committee, LR285CA is a proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. John Murante.  The proposal would eliminate Nebraska’s elected State Board of Education and replace it with a Governor-appointed commissioner allowing the governor personal control over all the important decisions about education that the State Board of Education, and by extension the Nebraska Department of Education, now make. This idea flies in the face of local control and would politicize every facet of public education.

NSEA believes public schools work best when they have as much input from the public as possible. Because Sen. Murante and the Governor disagree with some of the elected State Board’s decisions, they now want to take away the ability of the public to have any input at all.

The Nebraska State Board of Education is an elected, constitutional body that sets policy and ensures that the State Department of Education functions effectively within the framework developed by the state Legislature and board. By law, the State Board and Department of Education have broad leadership functions and authority to carry out certain regulatory and service activities. The State Board of Education has served as an elected constitutional body since Nebraskans passed a 1952 constitutional amendment to the state constitution.

State Board of Education members are elected every four years from eight state board of education districts created by the legislature. Members of the board are elected on a non-partisan ballot by local voters. This board is probably the least partisan of any elected body in Nebraska. Current membership of the board includes six former educators and two lay persons. The composition of the Board reveals that voters believe it is important to have the experience and voices of former educators in the decision-making process as the state formulates educational policy.

The constitutional amendment would erase the right of Nebraska’s citizens to have a direct link to education policy development by moving education policy directly into the hands of one person: the governor. Nebraskans do not want less direct citizen-based control of education policy – yet that would be the effect of this proposal.

 

Omaha Retirement Plan Bill Would Ease OPS Payments

With a proposal before the Nebraska Legislature to make changes to the Omaha School Employees Retirement System (OSERS), NSEA testified in support on two amendments, AM1529 and AM1758, that would make LB548 more palatable.

AM1758, by Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, would divert a portion of state aid to OPS to the Nebraska Investment Council for deposit in the Omaha School Employees Retirement System (OSERS) account.

The other amendment AM1529, by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom, provides an option to allow OPS to sell pension obligation bonds to cover the retirement plan costs.  The proposal received NSEA support, said NSEA Director of Government Relations Jason Hayes. He said bonds would allow the district to spread the cost over a longer period of time, thereby reducing any negative impact upon classroom learning due to covering retirement plan costs.

“We believe there needs to be some provision in law to ease the burden on OPS in paying its annual actuarial required contribution amount,” he said.

The OSERS retirement plan is underfunded, and OPS has been grappling with a path to improvement of the plan’s financial standing. LB548 has been prioritized by the Retirement Committee.

 

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.

Monday, Feb. 26, 2018

Education Committee – Room 1525

LB1033 (Murante) Eliminate learning communities

NSEA Position: Oppose

Dissolves the learning community on July 1, 2019. The learning community includes eleven school districts in Douglas and Sarpy counties. Repeals the requirement for the state to provide aid to the learning community. Results in an annual savings of $500,000 in general funds beginning in FY2019-20, based upon the amount of aid currently appropriated for FY2018-19. Requires ESU’s which have school districts in the learning community to reserve a minimum of 10% of ESU aid to be used by joint entities with school districts if they are established pursuant to the bill. The entities may opt to operate elementary learning centers and provide early childhood education programs or services for children in poverty.

LB1125 (Groene) Change school finance base limitation and local effort rate provisions

NSEA Position: Oppose

Amends the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) which allocates state aid to school districts. The bill changes the base limitation rate and local effort rate in the school aid formula for aid distributed in FY2018-19. However, the changes in the rates are not specifically identified in the bill, so no fiscal impact can be determined. The bill also changes the aid certification date from March 1st to May 1st in 2018.

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018

Revenue Committee – Room 1525

LB996 (Crawford) Change defined terms and other provisions of the Nebraska Advantage Act

NSEA Position: Support

Changed defined terms and other provisions of the Nebraska Advantage Act. Counts wages of only Nebraska resident employees and must be 110% of average weekly wage to qualify for tax breaks.

LB1023 (Schumacher) Eliminate certain sales and use tax exemptions

NSEA Position: Support

Changes sunset dates on certain tax incentive programs.  Effective December 31, 2018 including projects of qualified community development entities, agriculture rural development entities, job creation and main street revitalization entities, Nebraska Advantage Research and Development entities.

LB1088 (Wayne) Terminate the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act

NSEA Position: Support

Adopt the Nebraska Education Formula and the Remote Seller Sales Tax Collection Act, terminate the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act and the Property Tax Credit Act, and eliminate certain tax exemptions.

 

Review of Recent Committee Hearings

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018

Education Committee – Room 1525

LR285CA (Murante) Constitutional amendment to eliminate the State Board of Education

NSEA Position: Oppose

Eliminates the state board of education in the state constitution.  Would place control of the Nebraska Department of Education under the governor.

LR291 (Kolowski) Administrators, teachers, parents, and students be educated about heavy backpacks

NSEA Position: Monitor

Recommends that all school administrators, teachers, parents, and students be educated about the potential health impact of heavy backpacks and take proactive measures to avoid injury. Schools should work to assess the extent to which students use overweight backpacks and take steps to lessen the need to carry all school materials and books back and forth each day.

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018

Health and Human Services Committee – Room 1510

LR281CA (Morfeld) state that affordable health care is a right and to expand eligibility

NSEA Position: Support

Provides that the Legislature shall provide health insurance under the medical assistance program to adults under the age of sixty-five years with incomes under one hundred thirty-three percent of the federal poverty level.

Friday, Feb. 23, 2018

Revenue Committee – Room 1524

LB910 (Bolz) Adopt the Property Tax Circuit Breaker Act and change Property Tax Credit Act

NSEA Position: Support

Creates the Property Tax Circuit Breaker Act, the purpose of which is to provide a refundable income tax credit. A qualifying residential or agricultural taxpayer may apply to the Department of Revenue (DOR) for a refundable income tax credit based on the amount of property taxes paid and the income level of the applicant taxpayer. DOR may certify up to $105,000,000 in tax credits for qualifying agricultural taxpayers each taxable year. If the total amount of tax credits requested by all applicants exceeds the total amount available, DOR is to certify tax credits on a proportionate basis so that the limitation is not exceeded. For qualifying residential taxpayers, DOR may certify up to $119,000,000 of tax credits for each taxable year. If the total amount of tax credits requested by all applicants exceeds the total amount available, DOR is to certify tax credits on a proportionate basis so that the limitation is not exceeded. Qualifying residential taxpayers include both homeowners and renters.

LB1100 (Erdman) Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land

NSEA Position: Oppose

Amends a number of sections of Nebraska Revised Statutes dealing with agricultural and horticultural land valuation and creates the Agricultural Land Valuation Board. Provides that the actual value of agricultural and horticultural land is to be determined based upon the land’s capitalized net earning capacity. County assessors are to determine capitalized net earning capacity by using an agricultural land valuation manual developed by the Agricultural Land Valuation Board.

 

List of 2018 Education Related Bills

LB718 (Halloran) Adopt the Higher Education Free Speech Accountability Act

LB737 (Lindstrom) Adopt the First Responder Education Act

LB771 (Walz) Adopt the Child Hunger and Workforce Readiness Act

LB778 (Groene) Require voter approval for school district building fund levies

LB779 (Groene) Change provisions relating to learning communities

LB783 (Vargas) Define "educational interpreter" for purposes of students eligible for special education

LB801 (Stinner) Adopt the Panhandle Beginnings Act to provide certain services to school-age children

LB803 (Stinner) Change provisions for kindergarten, early childhood ed, Step Up to Quality Childcare Act

LB804 (Brasch) Include elementary and secondary schools in the Nebraska educational savings plan

LB828 (Lowe) Adopt the Empowerment Savings Account Act

LB851 (Linehan) Limit superintendent and educational service unit administrator compensation

LB857 (Morfeld) Adopt the Campus Confidentiality Act

LB876 (Kolowski) Change special education reimbursements

LB877 (Kolowski) Change provisions related to early childhood education in TEEOSA

LB888 (Wayne) Require schools to post child abuse and neglect toll-free telephone number

LB898 (Howard) Require public postsecondary ed institutions to conduct a sexual assault climate survey

LB912 (McCollister) Require schools to post child abuse and neglect toll-free telephone number

LB917 (Bolz) Change eligibility relating to Community College Gap Assistance Program Act

LB998 (Walz) Create the Collaborative School Behavioral and Mental Health Program

LB999 (Vargas) Change provisions relating to the Student Discipline Act

LB1001 (Briese) Provide for a review of the financing of schools

LB1033 (Murante) Eliminate learning communities

LB1052 (Pansing Brooks) Require instruction and teacher education related to dyslexia

LB1056 (Hansen) Provide for collection of data on student disciplinary actions

LB1069 (Brasch) Change provisions related to the Committee on Americanism

LB1070 (Brewer) Change election rules for school districts with fewer than 25 students in high school

LB1081 (Ed Cmmt) Change education provisions regarding penalties, residency, boundaries, etc.

LB1094 (Hilgers) Provide for financial literacy and entrepreneurship academic content standards

LB1103 (Friesen) Provide a minimum amount of state aid for each school district

LB1110 (Vargas) Require annual reporting of school performance scores and classifications

LB1116 (Linehan) Create the Quality Education Accountability Commission and Office

LB1125 (Groene) Change school finance base limitation and local effort rate provisions

LB1135 (Vargas) Adopt the Alternative Certification for Quality Teachers Act

LR270CA (Kolowski) Reduce the minimum age in the constitution to provide free instruction

LR285CA (Murante) Eliminate the State Board of Education