Reallocation of school lottery funds approved

Lottery fund dollars dedicated to education will be reallocated under a bill passed by the Legislature May 7.

LB519, introduced by Cedar Rapids Sen. Kate Sullivan, directs funds to establish competitive innovation grant programs.

The state Board of Education will establish a competitive innovation grant program with funding from the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund, created by LB519. An appropriation of $3 million will be transferred from the Education Innovation Fund to the Education Improvement Fund for fiscal year 2016-17.

Money in the Education Improvement Fund is allocated as follows:
• 1 percent to the state Department of Education for the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant Program Act;
• 17 percent to the state Board of Education for competitive innovation grants;
• 9 percent to the Community College Gap Assistance Program;
• 3 percent to the Learning Innovation Grant Program;
• 8 percent to the Excellence in Teaching Cash Fund; and
• 62 percent to the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Fund.

Grantees can be a school district, an educational service unit (ESU) or a combination of entities that includes at least one school district or ESU. The board will award grants to applicants that are deemed innovative and to have a strong chance of success.

The state Board of Education can designate an innovation project as a best practice. That program then will be included as a best practice allowance under the Tax Equity and Educational Support Opportunities Act, beginning with school year 2021-22.

The bill also provides for the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education to establish a similar competitive innovation grant program. Grantees can be a public postsecondary education institution or a combination of entities that include at least one participating public postsecondary education institution.

Provisions of LB527, also introduced by Sullivan, are included in the bill. These change the terms for loan forgiveness under the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching Program, decreasing the annual amount forgiven from $3,000 to $1,500. Those qualifying for accelerated loan forgiveness will see a decrease from $6,000 to $1,500 the first year and to $3,000 in subsequent years.

LB519 also incorporates provisions of several other bills, including:
• LB380, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, which will direct the Education Committee to study the affordability of postsecondary education and explore strategies to address the high cost of education;
• LB379, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, which will provide after school and out-of-school programming, funded through school-community partnership grants; and
• LB36, also introduced by Bolz, which will provide funding to community colleges to award gap assistance to students in eligible non-credit accumulating programs.

The bill passed on a 48-0 vote.

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