Education cleanup bill advanced with reading intervention programs

Senators advanced a bill March 21 that would make several technical changes to state education law. It was amended to include provisions of a bill intended to ensure that Nebraska students are able to read at or above grade level by third grade.

LB1081, introduced by the Education Committee, is an annual cleanup bill that includes technical changes requested by the state Department of Education.

The bill would require the Learning Community coordinating council to file an annual financial report with the department and would authorize the commissioner of education to direct that learning community funds be withheld if the report is not filed. It also would require the coordinating council to complete an audit of its books, accounts, records and affairs at least once every three years.

The department no longer would be required to file several reports with the coordinating council, including a census count of 5- to 18-year-olds, an end-of-the-school-year annual statistical summary, an annual financial report and a fall membership report.

The bill also would eliminate the requirement that school districts submit poverty and limited English proficiency plans to the department and the coordinating council.

Groene said the plans were meant to determine how school districts were addressing the needs of students in poverty and those with limited English proficiency. According to the department, Groene said, since 2006 reviews have shown that school districts are using best practices for these students and that the plans no longer serve a purpose that is not demonstrated by federal plans and school improvement plans that are required for accreditation.

“This is duplication of efforts at a time when we have been reducing the budget of NDE,” he said. “It just makes sense to reduce the fiscal cost based solely on the duplication of reporting requirements.”

The state Board of Education currently may designate no more than three schools as priority schools. LB1081 would eliminate that cap and would reduce from five to three the number of years that a school can be designated a priority school before the board reevaluates the school’s progress plan.

Finally, the bill would require school boards to collaborate with the county attorney for the county in which they are located to review the rules and standards for student conduct that would require the school to contact law enforcement if a student displays such conduct.

Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan filed an amendment, adopted 33-0, that included provisions from her LB651, which is intended to provide intensive interventions for students identified as having a reading deficiency.

The amendment would require each school district to administer an approved reading assessment three times during the school year to all students in kindergarten through third grade. Students who score below a set threshold would be identified as having a reading deficiency, and school districts would be required to provide those students with a supplemental reading intervention program.

Lawmakers voted 37-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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