Omnibus education measure advanced

A proposal to update the Nebraska Career Scholarship Act was given first-round approval March 20 after lawmakers amended it to include several other bills related to education.

Sen. Dave Murman
Sen. Dave Murman

LB1329, introduced by Glenvil Sen. Dave Murman, would update the Nebraska Career Scholarship Act by transferring its administration from the state Department of Economic Development to the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education.

The measure also would expand the definition of “first-time freshman” to include high school graduates who earned credit through dual enrollment and update scholarship eligibility to require a 3.0 or higher GPA. Finally, the bill would harmonize reporting dates and guidelines with census data to take into account all eligible programs of study, retention and graduation data.

A committee amendment, adopted 39-0, added provisions from six other bills pertaining to education, including LB1339, sponsored by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer. The provisions would allow school districts to authorize security personnel and off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms on school grounds and at school-sponsored activities.

If approved, a policy must specify qualifications, training, appropriate firearms and ammunition and appropriate use of force requirements.

Brewer said many rural school districts lack sufficient law enforcement personnel to adequately protect students or to reach a school in a timely manner in the event of an emergency.

He offered an additional amendment, adopted 33-0, to clarify that the state Board of Education and Nebraska State Patrol would collaborate to create and execute a policy authorizing security personnel to carry firearms on school premises.

Murman also offered an amendment, adopted 34-0, to further narrow the provisions to apply only to school districts with fewer than 5,000 residents.

Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh said she opposes guns in schools, but that the amendments reflected a compromise to narrow the provisions to an acceptable point.

Other bills included in the committee amendment are:
• LB673, introduced by Blair Sen. Ben Hansen, which would provide grants to schools that adopt a policy to provide emergency response mapping data to law enforcement agencies;
• LB855, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, which would prohibit school districts from contracting with a collection agency to assess or collect interest, fees or other monetary penalties for outstanding debts on a student’s school lunch or breakfast account;
• LB962, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, which would require public schools to use only the Gall-Peters or AuthaGraph projection map for teaching purposes in the classroom;
• LB1012, sponsored by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz, which would allow the Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund to be used for abatement projects to address school safety infrastructure concerns; and
• LB1385, introduced by Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, which would streamline the approval application process for teaching certificates and create reciprocity among states for the issuance of teaching certificates.

An amendment offered by Conrad, adopted 32-4, added provisions of Lincoln Sen. George Dungan’s LB231, which would direct school districts to provide written communication to parents or guardians regarding excessive absences.

Finally, Lincoln Sen. Beau Ballard offered an amendment, adopted 40-0, that added provisions of his LB550 to the committee package. The amendment would allow K-12 students to attend a public school outside their district once in elementary, middle school and high school, for a total of three times before graduation.

Following adoption of the amendments, LB1329 advanced to select file on a vote of 40-0.

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