Nonpublic school regulation changes clear first round

A bill that would loosen regulations for Nebraska private, parochial, denominational, group or home-based schools that choose not to meet accreditation requirements was advanced to select file March 20. Such schools commonly are referred to as “exempt.”

Sen. Robert Clements
Sen. Robert Clements

LB1027, introduced by Elmwood Sen. Robert Clements, would simplify the application process to attend an exempt school and align it with the application process for public schools. Under the bill, only one parent would need to apply to the state Department of Education for their child to attend an exempt school. Current law requires both parents or guardians to apply.

Clements said the measure would be the first significant update to Nebraska’s home-school law since 1984 and aims to remove “cumbersome barriers” for parents or guardians who choose to educate their children in exempt schools.

“At that time the track record for home schools and church schools was very short, so several oversight protections were placed in law but have never been used,” Clements said. “Since then, the track record for exempt schools has proven to be very good and they currently have over 13,000 students enrolled.”

The bill would remove the department’s authority to visit or inspect exempt schools and to proctor achievement testing of exempt school students.

It also would remove subject matter testing requirements for exempt school employees, aligning the requirements for exempt school employees with those of public schoolteachers, who no longer must complete the Praxis exam.

As introduced, LB1027 also would have eliminated the annual renewal notification filed by parents. An Education Committee amendment, adopted 37-0, would restore that requirement. Clements said the department is revising the annual form to make the process easier for parents and guardians.

Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad offered an amendment, adopted 38-0, that would address situations in which a court has designated a single individual to make educational decisions on behalf of a child.

After adoption of an additional technical amendment, senators voted 36-0 to advance LB1027 to select file.

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