Education cleanup bill passed with reading intervention programs

Senators approved a bill April 11 that makes several technical changes to state education law. As amended, it includes 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 requires the Learning Community coordinating council to file an annual financial report with the department and authorizes the commissioner of education to direct that learning community funds be withheld if the report is not filed. It also requires the coordinating council to complete an audit of its books, accounts, records and affairs at least once every three years.

The department no longer is 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 eliminates the requirement that school districts submit poverty and limited English proficiency plans to the department and the coordinating council.

LB1081 also changes a current provision that “no more than three” schools may be designated priority schools to “no less than three.” It reduces 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 requires school boards to collaborate with their county attorney to review the rules and standards for student conduct that would require the school to contact law enforcement.

The bill was amended on general file to include provisions of LB651, introduced by Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, which is intended to provide intensive interventions for students identified as having a reading deficiency.

These 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.

The program would be implemented during regular school hours in addition to regular reading instruction unless otherwise agreed to by a parent or guardian. The bill also would require schools to make available a summer reading program for students in first grade or higher who are identified as continuing to have a reading deficiency at the end of the school year.

As amended on select file April 9 35-0, the reading intervention programs may include several intensive intervention strategies, such as daily targeted small-group reading, parent training workshops and access to before-school or after-school supplemental reading intervention.

The bill passed on a vote of 46-1.

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