Funding sought for master teacher program

An existing master teacher program would receive funding under a bill heard March 9 by the Appropriations Committee.

LB185, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, would appropriate $1 million in fiscal year 2015-16 and FY2016-17 to the state Department of Education for the Master Teacher Program Fund.

Bolz said the program—which helps Nebraska teachers achieve national board certification—was established in 2000, but has not been funded. Providing the funding would support an initiative that improves student achievement and teacher satisfaction, she said.

“Education is the foundation of our democracy and an educated population is the foundation of a civil society,” Bolz said. “I can think of few things in front of this committee that are more important than ensuring the quality of the education we’re providing for our students.”

Nila Jacobson, a Spanish instructor at Lincoln Public Schools who is nationally board certified, testified in support of the bill. Nebraska currently has 112 nationally board certified teachers, she said, compared to 20,611 in North Carolina, the national leader.

The gap is a result of a lack on incentives for teachers to pursue certification, she said, which costs approximately $5,000.

“If we want to ensure that all students receive an excellent education that prepares them to succeed in today’s world, we must systematically increase the quality of our teaching workforce,” Jacobson said.

Lincoln Board of Education member Katie McLeese Stephenson also testified in support. Only three school districts in Nebraska provide incentives for teachers to pursue certification, she said, and the state ranks 47th in the number of nationally board certified teachers.

“We know that teachers who take this step … make a huge impact on student learning and student achievement,” she said. “We continue to fall further and further behind.”

No opposition testimony was given and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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