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Education bills occupied much of the debate last week. LB 409 introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte would adjust the state’s school funding formula to better align with current budget projections and LB 512, an omnibus bill introduced by the Education Committee, contained provisions from several bills ranging from how technology companies can use student information to how to fund voluntary termination agreements for teachers and school administrators.
LB 409 would change both the base limitation rate and the local effort rate when determining state aid to schools. The base limitation rate is the rate at which school budgets are allowed to grow from year to year. The rate is currently 2.5 percent but the bill would reduce the rate to 1.5 percent for school fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The bill would also increase the local effort rate to $1.02. The local effort rate is set by state statute and is the rate which, when multiplied by the total adjusted valuation of all taxable property in a school district receiving equalization aid pursuant to TEEOSA will produce the amount required to support the total formula need of the school district when added to state aid appropriated by the Legislature and any other receipts.
An amendment to the bill, would calculate net option funding, state funding for educating students who exercise the option to attend a school outside their home district, by multiplying the net number of option students by 95.5 percent of the statewide average basic funding per student for those years. The bill was advanced to select file by a vote of 38-0.
LB 512, the Education Committee’s omnibus bill, incorporated provisions from six bills:
All but one of the components of the omnibus bill were noncontroversial and elicited little discussion. The Briese bill was of concern to some senators especially Omaha Sen. Burke Harr who worried that there would be a substantial negative impact on school districts already at their maximum levy. Harr introduced an amendment to allow those districts to exempt up to $35,000 of the payment for a teacher’s voluntary termination agreement that is not part of a collective bargaining agreement. The Harr amendment was adopted on a 30-6 vote and the bill then advanced to final reading on a voice vote.
A third education bill discussed this week was LB 645 introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln. The bill would provide a legal definition for dyslexia. Dyslexia is included as a specific learning disability in state law but is not defined. Sen. Pansing Brooks said she introduced the bill with the hope that adding a definition to state statute would result in more attention being given to the issue leading to earlier identification of students with dyslexia and getting them the help they need. After adding a technical amendment, senators voted 32-0 to advance the bill to select file.
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