Changes to education funding adopted

A bill containing several changes to the Tax Equity and Educational Support Opportunities Act (TEEOSA) and the Education Innovation Fund was passed by the Legislature March 27.

LB967, introduced by the Education Committee, reduces by half the teacher education and instructional time allowances for the calculation of aid under TEEOSA for fiscal year 2015-16 and eliminates the two allowances completely in FY2016-17. The bill also provides district reorganization support grants.

For 2014-15 and 2015-16, LB967 incorporates the following changes to allocations and transfers from the Education Innovation Fund:
• adds $200,000 per year to the existing transfers to the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching Cash Fund, per LB842 by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis;
• limits distance education equipment and incentives to $2 million for 2014-15 and $2.5 million for 2015-16;
• transfers $1 million per year for reorganization support, per LB967;
• allocates $145,000 per year to continue the college admissions test pilot project for two additional years, per LB835 by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery; and
• allocates $335,000 for 2014-15 and an estimated $344,000 for 2015-16 for evaluating and improving career education programs to align with economic and workforce needs, per LB754 by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith.

Additional provisions related to the Education Innovation Fund will:
• allow lottery funds that are allocated to reorganization support grants and early childhood education prior to the termination of the Education Innovation Fund to be used after the fund terminates on June 30, 2016, per LB967 and LB984 by Cedar Rapids Sen. Kate Sullivan;
• transfer unspent funds from other allocations and transfers to the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund on Aug. 1, 2016, per LB967 and LB984;
• transfer the remaining funds in the Excellence in Teaching Cash Fund to the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund on Aug. 1, 2016;
• retain $3 million to be transferred to the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund, which will receive lottery funds for education beginning July 1, 2016, per LB984; and
• further clarify the final deadlines for distance education incentives, per LB1069 by Sullivan.

Other provisions from LB984 add legislative intent for all children to have access to early childhood education programs in the year prior to kindergarten and for funding to be used for such access to programs.

Additional provisions from LB1069 will:
• replace outdated references to the North Central Association for postsecondary education;
• harmonize department of education requirements with the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse requirements;
• specifically authorize school district expenditures related to programs and activities;
• require the Early Childhood Training Center to approve training for the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act;
• update special education definitions; and
• include private postsecondary career schools in any interstate reciprocity agreements for postsecondary distance education.

Provisions amended into LB967 that originated from LB958, a bill by Omaha Sen. Tanya Cook, reinstated the position of achievement coordinator in the state Department of Education.

The bill also incorporated provisions of LB129, originally introduced by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar. The original per diem for board members of the Board of Educational Lands and Funds was $40 per meeting when it was eliminated effective Oct. 1, 2011. The bill reinstates the per diem and increases it to $50 per meeting. The board is required to meet monthly in Lincoln.

Senators passed the bill on a 44-0 vote.

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