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Last Wednesday, the first day of the session, I was honored to be re-elected as the Education Committee Chairman by my colleagues. Below is the main body of the nomination speech I gave before the vote.
“Over the last two years, the Education Committee successfully worked with the Appropriations Committee and the Governor to fit the needed changes to school funding into our budget. We worked to assure that our schools were treated equally and fairly: from Loup County, with 60 students; to our largest Omaha Public Schools, with 51,000 students. We plan on repeating that effort as we address the budget cycle that lies before us.
We worked with the Department of Education to assure their annual priority cleanup legislation was passed into law. We have established a good relationship, built on trust, with the Department and Commissioner Blomstedt.
We enacted into law the hard work of Senator Linehan, with the help of Senator Pansing Brooks, defining by statute the importance Nebraska citizens put in our children’s ability to read and read well. We hold the expectation that literacy must be the top priority of public education. For if one can read well and have the vocabulary to understand the written word, all knowledge is available to them.
We passed into law legislation that defined the necessity of early detection of students showing signs of dyslexia, a learning impairment which can be one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of a student’s ability to reach their full potential, and we eliminated a growing abuse of early retirement payments by a few school boards.
Much more remains to be done. It is time for this body to fix the state school aid formula ‘Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act’ (TEEOSA). It is time for this body to fulfill the promise of our state constitution that, ‘The Legislature shall provide for the free instruction in the common schools of this state.’ We can no longer pass the majority of that duty off to the property taxpayers of Nebraska. Yes, local effort should be part of the funding, but local taxpayers should not be required to shoulder an undue burdensome share in any of our common schools.
To mend the urban-rural divide on this issue, we must make state funding truly equitable to all. As Chairman of the Education Committee, I will bring legislation that reflects the efforts during this past interim of an informal TEEOSA study group made up of 11 senators who had in the past showed a legislative interest in fixing TEEOSA. We can, and we must, work together to fix TEEOSA.
This year we need to update our American civics and social studies statutes to aid and guide the Department of Education as they update the social studies standards. We must emphasize to our schools that our children understand that freedom is not free; to maintain it, they must understand the sacrifices of the Americans who came before them. They must be informed of their civic duties.
I will continue to pursue legislation to empower our teachers with the ability to protect themselves and our children from violence in the classroom and to enable our teachers to be in charge of the learning atmosphere in their classrooms. We expect much from our teachers, some may say too much, but they are on the frontlines of the cultural changes in our society. We must reemphasize to teachers they have the support of the citizens of Nebraska and give them the tools to help instill within our children behavioral boundaries.
The citizens of Nebraska expect this body to be successful as we address these issues. I am willing to help lead the efforts as your Chairman of the Education Committee. Your vote of support will be humbly appreciated.”
I was re-elected on a 26 to 20 vote. Now the work begins.
Contact Sen. Mike Groene: email@example.com or 402-471-2729