NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Curt Friesen

Sen. Curt Friesen

District 34

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Weekly Column

April 24th, 2017

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:

  • LB 512, the underlying bill, would make minor technical changes to current statutory language.
  • LB 123 (Pansing Brooks) would authorize the Coordinating Commission on Postsecondary Education to assess a fee on for-profit post-secondary institutions in the state with the money going into a cash fund to be used to reimburse students for lost tuition and fees if the institution closed.
  • LB 175 (Morfeld) would prevent companies that contract with schools from using student data to target advertising or for other non-educational purposes.
  • LB 235 (Walz) would change some of the provisions for grantees receiving money under the Summer Food Service Program and the total amount of funds available for the program.
  • LB 398 (Wayne) would require certification of swimming instructors and lifeguards at swimming pools located inside a public school and also require that certified swimming instructors and lifeguards be present during public school swimming activities.
  • LB 457 (Briese) would remove a budget and levy limitation exemption for the money a school district agrees to pay teachers and administrators in exchange for voluntary termination of employment. School districts sometimes use such payments as a tool to encourage older higher paid teachers to retire early making it possible to hire more teachers at the lower end of the pay scale.  Some school districts have spent over four million dollars for separation agreements.

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.

Please feel free to contact me and my staff about your legislative concerns or other issues you would like to discuss. My email address is cfriesen@leg.ne.gov and our telephone number is 402-471-2630.

Sen. Curt Friesen

District 34
Room #1110
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2630
Email: cfriesen@leg.ne.gov
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