Debate Transcripts

LB 245 (1992)

General File

January 9, 1992


PRESIDENT MOUL:  LB 398 is advanced.  LB 245.


CLERK:  Madam President, LB 245 was a bill introduced by Senator Withem.  (Read title.) The bill was introduced on January 14, arid referred to the Education Committee for public hearing.  The bill was advanced to General File.  I do have committee amendments pending by the Education Committee.  Senator, I also have some amendments to committee amendments that I believe were filed last year.  I don't know if you still need those or not.


SENATOR WITHEM:  I think we'll withdraw those.


SENATOR WITHEM:  Yeah, I think we withdrew those because we were going to ask that the current set of amendments not be ** and we a rewrite of those that we'll be offering




as ...  as floor amendments here in a few moments.  I'd just like to comment a little bit about LB 245 and this time I have to explain committee amendments and then suggest the course of action that I believe we should follow with the bill.  It's kind of ironic that usually the important bills of the session are heard in the final few weeks of the session.  In my mind, at least in terms of the elementary secondary education agenda, this bill, LB 245, will be the most important bill that we deal with this session.  At least I say that without knowing what all will be introduced.  But at least of the issues that I know of, this is the most important one.  It's the one dealing with setting standards for what we expect the young people in our schools to ...  to be able to do and devising means of assessing whether our schools are, in, fact, providing the opportunities and the experiences to allow those young people to meet those objectives.  There's probably nothing more important in the area of public education that a state can do than...than this particular area.  **et the standards, set the method of determining whether they're meeting those standards.  We have, as a Legislature, in the last four or five years.  .  six or seven years, I should say, starting with LB 994 a few years ago, progressing through with other legislation, done an awful lot to improve public education in Nebraska, to change the way in which it's financed, to change the way in which it is organized.  We passed a bill establishing a School Restructuring Committee.  We've worked in early childhood education, distance learning.  The one final ...  the one thing ...  I shouldn't say final because there will always be things, but as far as the...  the original reform agenda that we have not done is establish state standards.  That's what LB 245 is designed to do.  It really ties in nicely with the work of the Nebraska 2000 Committee, the President's and the Governor's goals on improving education, and it's really essential that we do it.  The purpose of the bill is to establish, first of all, a working group of citizens, business, private citizens and educators, who will have the responsibility of determining state standards for student achievement in the first phase of its work, and then maybe more importantly creating a mechanism for assessing whether students are meeting .  .  those levels of achievement and ...  and also reporting on whet, her they are meeting those ...  those levels of achievement.  That's what the bill does.  The committee amendment ...  since the bill came, out of committee, last year, we attached ** amendments.  They were basically a rewrite of LB I have proposed a new set of amendments that differ radically from the committee amendments, but this




new set of amendments also is a rewrite of LB 245, so I would suggest at this point, that when this loud bell rings up here in a few moments, that we reject this set of committee amendments so we -an get on to discuss Amendment 2363 which I've had an explanation of distributed to you and placed on your desk here.  So at this point, unless there are questions or comments or other people wishing to debate the committee amendments, I would ask that you reject the committee amendments.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Withem.  Senator Nelson, do you wish to address the committee amendments?


SENATOR NELSON:  No, the bill.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Senator Withem, we'll proceed with a vote on the committee amendments and, if you wan ...  want to encourage Senator Withem.


SENATOR WITHEM:  Yeah, just in closing.  This is one of those rare instances in the Legislature when I'm speaking and not everybody is paying total attention to my words here, so ...  so let me repeat that the committee amendments, in my opinion, should probably be rejected.


F-RESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Withem.  We will now vote on the committee amendments.  All those in favor please vote aye, opposed nay.  Have you all voted?  Please record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  1 aye, 19 nays, Madam President, on the adoption of committee amendments.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Committee amendments are not adopted.


CLERK:  Madam President, Senator, would you like to offer your amendment now, Senator Withem?


SENATOR WITHEM:  Yes, I would.  The amendment is described on.  .  .  on the desk here.  The reason for this set of amendments since the bill was introduced, other players have become involved in this whole area of assessment and accountability.  The Department of Education, the Governor's Office and this entity known as the Mid-Continent Regional Education Laboratory MCREL, which is one of the.  education labs established for multistate cooperation, that:  has been a fair amount of work in this particular area.




What it does is ...  and I'll Just go through the five bullet points here.  The one change is that it...  it makes note of the fact that the Accountability Commission should begin its work on the groundwork already laid by the School Restructuring Committee and maybe can prevail later on in the debate if needed for Senators, either Crosby or Bernard-Stevens or both who serve on that, to comment a little bit.  This School Restructuring Committee has, as part of its work, tried to create a vision of what it is a school should be accomplishing for young people ...  what young people should ...  competence these young people should have.  If that work is already done, that moves us a long way toward accomplishing what was to be phase I of this..  of this recommendation.  Phase II of the time period originally was a one year process where we were going to ...  the first year we were going to create the standards, the second year we were going to devise means of evaluating whether students meet those.  This is going on a national basis.  There are national committees, state committees, all across the country attempting to come up with valid indicators of student achievement.  And it is a more complicated process than can be expected to be accomplished rationally in a one year period.  So this extends the time line considerably for that:  to happen.  I think the intent by the Department of Education that'll be doing some staff work for this would be to take a subject matter area each year and devise assessment strategies for that.  Third is it provides to the Department of Education working with teams of teachers and assessment experts to develop curriculum frameworks and assessment tools for each of the major subject area disciplines.  And as I indicated before, that'll probably be a one year sort of ...  sort of time period.  The fourth thing is it authorizes Nebraska to work with other states or a plains states consortium to share resources and responsibilities for developing assessment keyed to state standards.  As I indicated, it's silly for Nebraska to do this entirely on its own when we have the Romer Commission on the, national level, we have MCREL Oil the regional level, ECS, NCSL, lots of people are working on this .  Finally, it deals with the legislators serving on the commission, how they'll be reimbursed under the Legislative Counsel as opposed to the other individuals.  It'll be under state reimbursement guidelines.  And also, I probably should indicate to you, it returns the bill to .  .  .  closer to its original makeup of the composition of the committee.  At the time, we talked about this in the Education Committee, we were maybe a little more concerned then about the whole separation of powers ;:I rgum** .  1*11 This amendment returns the makeup of the




committee pretty much to the way it was previous to this.  With that, if you have any questions, I'd be happy to respond.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Withem.  Senator Nelson, you wish to speak to the amendment.


SENATOR NELSON:  Yes, ma'am, I believe that since the amendment becomes the bill, Senator Withem put it very, very well.  I consider this one of our most important bills, if not...and I don't know what else could come in.  When you travel on the national level, you find that Nebraska is considerably behind times in ...  in assessment.  We have no statutes.  Most states do.  We've not established guidelines and it's certainly time that we do it for out- education system.  What we've been doing is not good enough.  We must improve upon what we're doing and there's only one way we know what that vision is or how we expect to get to that...  to that point.  We do have to make some changes.  Senator Withem very ably explained the bill and there's not a lot that I can say to add to it.  But we need to address our ...  our basic skills, our thinking skills.  We need more performance based education, more creative thinking.  I can go right down the line and this is very, very important to education and I would hope that you would support the bill.  .1 feel very, very strong about it.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Nelson.  Senator Wesely.  Senator Wesely waives.  Senator Robinson.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  Madam President, members of the body, may I ...  question for Senator Withem.  After this process is completed, will there by any teeth into it for the improvement get schools one through ten and they're way below average in all four areas.  What...what do you see as a follow-up to this?


SENATOR WITHEM:  At this...  at this point ...  at this point, the concept of sanctions and rewards is riot included in this ...I


SENATOR ROBINSON:  (inaudible)


SENATOR WITHEM:  There 'are lots of states that are doing that.  .  workinq and.  moving in that:  areas.  I would anticipate that that's one of the next steps that we would need to work on, either as a or as the Department of' Ed or whatever.  But at this point, there are no sanctions or rewards built into






SENATOR ROBINSON:  We should probably put in there the new NCAA rules, shouldn't we, that anyone that participates in an athletic endeavor should have a C+ average.  like they're doing to the colleges.  I just ...


SENATOR WITHEM:  And unless they can pass.  If they...if they're just running, yeah, we ought to have that standard.  But if they can pass, maybe we...


SENATOR ROBINSON:  I just wondered about that because I think if you're going to be on a soccer team, you ought to have a C+ average.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Robinson.  Senator Moore.


SENATOR MOORE:  Madam President and members, I have a question for Senator Withem.  And basically, Senator Withem stated very succinctly and very correctly in his opening about how the whole process of assessment and some outcome based assessment methods is very important to the future of education in the State of Nebraska, and as Senator Withem and others know, I certainly concur with that.  I guess the question, Senator Withem, and I'll give you the balance of my time when I'm finished to answer it, is that as I looked down the list of the supporters of this bill, a variety of education groups that have always said, yes, we're for some sort of assessment methods, but they always tell you why nothing ever works.  That's always the first.  answer out of their mouths is well, yeah, that would be great, but show me how it can work.  And I guess I commend you for corralling them least they've...they've finally, for one of the first times, said that we're going to try and find a way --hat it doer; work.  I guess the simple question is, Senator Withem, I ...  is the amount of money in this bill, tell me why you believe that after ...  for years that many education groups have said it's really impossible to develop any sort of an assessment method that you can compare on, why do you think at this point that this.  .  this particular plan and this particular amount of money will finally make this succeed in Nebraska.  Arid I'll give you the balance of my time to convince me why it's my money well


WITHEM:  Okay, first of all, a lot of the former have been ones where basically we begin by taking a




preexisting standardized test off of the shelf some place, applying that to all of the students in the state and using that for comparison purposes.  I would not be in favor of doing that.  Reason is because I'm not sure those standardized tests measure what it is we want our students to be able to do here in Nebraska.  So the first step in this process is to determine what it is we want our students to be able to do and then develop those assessment mechanisms.  So that's one key difference.  Secondly, and since ...  since you and I came into the Legislature even, there's been a lot of work nationally done on this whole idea of I think the ...  the key buzzword is authentic assessment, where you get away from maybe pen and pencil tests and do ...  look at things like student performance, portfolios of written work, demonstrations, other...other means of ...  of assessing student performance and a lot of the best brain power in education policy around the country has been applied to this area.  So I think it is, and thirdly, this is not, unlike some of those other bills that, that have been kind of dumped on the education community from outside.  This is one in which they will be able to participate.  They will not be the majority stockholders in the partici ...  in the creation of it, but they'll be able to participate, so I guess I would say that those are what distinguishes this between earlier approaches that receive a lot of opposition from...from folks within the education lobby.  Fourth, finally to be very blunt and pragmatic:  about it, I think a lot of those realize that the ...  the patience and tolerance of people like you and me to continue to say we have a problem in education so the solution is let's spend more money on it, without attaching some accountability to that, our patience is running fairly ...  fairly thin.  And I think they see that the next thing that needs to happen is an accountability factor in education before we push a whole lot more money into the ...  into the process.  If...  I'll yield back the remainder of your time if I've provoked any thoughts or comments on your part.  r


SENATOR MOORE:  No, just thank you for your response.  It was very good.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Moore.  Senator Dierks.


SENATOR DIERKS:  Madam President and members of the body, I just had to stand in support of this legislation.  I have been for the last two or three months on a university's standards committee and one of the statistics that




was presented to us about two meetings ago was that; of all the incoming freshman, all the matriculating freshman in the university system, at the end of the...  of the sophomore year, a third of those students have failed.  In other words, a third of the students that enter the University of Nebraska system are no longer in the system after the second year.  And that was amazing to me that this could happen.  I didn't think that ...  that it could be quite that severe.  I think that this type of evaluation system has got to be done, I think, to...  to help us alleviate some of those problems.  So I would certainly support this legislation and hope that you will, too.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you, Senator Dierks.  Senator Abboud.


SENATOR ABBOUD:  Madam President, colleagues, you know it's interesting that Senator Moore raised the issue of money when it comes to establishing what should be the goal of the educational system in our state.  The amount of money is relatively small if you compare the amount that we spend as a state on educational systems, and I'm ...  I'm going to be supporting this bill in hopes that ...  that something will good ...  something good will come out of this commiss.  ** We have had tremendously long debates on what should be the role of education in our state, how school boards should be educating our children in our schools, and instead of really focusing in on the best approach on educating our children, most of the debate focuses in on the amount of money that we spend to educate Our children.  A number of years ago, we passed a bill , LB 1.059, and it probably would have been wiser at that time to first analyze what should be the goals of education, rather than simply putting in millions of dollars into our educational system throughout the state.  I don't know what's going to become of the commission and I don't think even the supporters of the bill, proponents and sponsors of the bill, can really attest today that this commission will be a success.  But it's my hope that maybe we'll get one or two good ideas out of the commission that will be enacted into law and will help to educate our students throughout the state.  I'm always leery when we (let into commissions, but I think the groups that have been selected to ...  to serve on that commission offer a broad array and will provide a great deal of input and hopefully maybe some restructuring, and our educational system will come about.  I don't think anyone can argue that the educational' system we have In our state is good, but there is always, a number of ways improve it.  And the focus of the commission being looking at




the international educational system and how some of the children are educated in other countries throughout the world, should be an important focus of that commission.  Because we are...when we're competing against countries like Japan, Germany, and other European countries, we do need to revamp our educational system.  And it's my hope that the commission will come up with some ideas, that this commission will say, let's focus it-** on this particular area, and let's put our money in this particular area, rather than the- shotgun approach that this Legislature has chosen in the past on spreading the money around with the ...  our hopes that the local school boards will implement a better educational structure.  So I plan on supporting the bill.  I think it's money well spent.  And I'm happy to see that Senator Withem brought the bill before us.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT MOUL:  Thank you Senator Abboud.  Senator Chambers.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Madam Chair and members of the Legislature, I heard a comment that was made by Senator Bud.  Bud, this bud's for you ...  or this one's for you, Bud.  He made an interesting point because the NCAA has undertaken some rule changes that are going to affect the ability of youngsters from inner cities to even enter colleges, period.  Great reliance is going to be placed on standardized tests.  When this Legislature begins to talk about educational matters and the welfare of students and the purpose for which schools exist, I hope those discussions will not be in a vacuum.  By that I mean, it's appropriate in the context of Senator Withem's bill to discuss the wider ramifications of the purposes of education, but when we come to an athletic contest where student still are involved, we'll have senators who will disappoint me like Senator Beutler, who will say that maintaining eligibility and good relationships with the NCAA is more important than this state elevating education as the number one goal and role of a university.  Now what the NCAA will tend to do, and it ties into what Senator Withem is discussing in this bill, is take an existing negative situation, where it is known and has been demonstrated over and over, that youngsters in inner city schools, whether they be black youngsters, poor white youngsters, Latinos, native Americans, or whichever group happen to be in those schools, are going to be victimized by an education which is inferior to that given to others who don't live there.  So, the NCAA will superimpose a I ** discriminatory situation and discrimination rule on at) existing discrimina** ** those youngsters from having entry to the schools by way of athletics.  I'm opposed to all of those overt and covert tactics




of discrimination.  The schools in Nebraska are lacking in many respects.  What is needed in the schools that are found in what has been termed the inner city are teachers who are knowledgeable about the culture and the background and the mores of the communities in which they teach.  When you bring young white teachers from outstate Nebraska who've had no dealing with black people, who have judges and editors using racial epitaphs and saying they're complimentary, editors in those parts of the state justifying that and teaching their young white children that this is appropriate language, when they enter the schoolroom and the hallway, they hear similar language and are made to feel that it's appropriate, then they are hired by the Omaha Public School System to teach our children.  You have created all of the circumstances necessary for a tragedy.  So what I think should be done this session, and this bill can perhaps be a start in that direction by raising our level of awareness about the nature of these problems and their existence, is to take a realistic approach toward meeting this very real.  problem that exists in Nebraska, and especially in cities like Lincoln and Omaha, where there are large numbers of nonwhite students being taught by white teachers ...




SPEAKER BAACK:  One minute.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  ...with no understanding of those students.  Before there can be teaching and learning, there must be understanding on which communication can be based.  If a relationship of hostility or lack of respect for the children exists, there can be no educating, and only problems will result.  So I plan this session, to talk a lot about the issues of racism, discrimination, and unfair treatment by the government and its instrumentalities, and I certainly intend to have a very serious and deep discuss-Lori with my -good friend, Senator Beutler, for whom I helped obtain some money to send him to Tokyo for a study, and based on the bill that he introduced the other day, I'm going to try and (let enough money to leave him there for the rest of the session.


SPEAKER BAACK:  Time.  Is there anyone else who wishes to.  address this amendment by Senator Withem?  Seeing none, Senator Withem, do you wish to close?


SENATOR WITHEM:  Yes, I would.  I would like to, first of all,




thank ...  first of all thank Senator Robinson for bringing up the NCAA in his beginnings of the discussion, giving Senator Chambers an opportunity to...  to speak at this point.  Would also like to thank Senators Nelson, Dierks, Moore, for their supportive remarks, and Senator Abboud started making some very excellent remarks, and when he got to the 1059 part, it kind of lost a little bit of its effect, but then lie finished strong, so appreciate Senator Abboud's remarks also.  I do think that the next thing that this Legislature really needs to do to improve education is grab ahold of the accountability issue so that we can set the standards and provide meaningful assessment of our students.  one of the big problems we have in Nebraska is we really don't know, we go on a lot of anecdotal information, that one school claims it's better than the other-one because they'll hold tip their student handbook, talking about all the different courses that they offer.  But we on the state level don't know if students are getting ...  getting a decent ...  decent education out of those.  On the other hand, we have another school say all of our students are A students, but we don't really know what an A means in that building.  We really mean in ...  in order to ...  Senator Abboud was 100 percent correct.  In order to target any future funds we to education, to the areas that need it, we need to know what those areas are.  So I think this is a ...  although hopefully it has riot become a controversial bill, is an incredibly important bill, and I would urge support of the body of the committee amendments.


SPEAKER BAACK:  you have heard Senator Withem's closing on the amendment.  We will now proceed to vote on that amendment.  Ding.  Ding, I said.  That's the bell.  The bell doesn't work, so we're dinging.  Have you all voted?  Record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  29 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on adoption of Senator Withem's amendment.


SPEAKER BAACK:  The amendment is adopted.


CLERK:  I have nothing further on the bill, Mr. President.


SPEAKER BAACK:  We are now on discussion of the bill as amended.  is there anyone wishing to discuss the bill as amended?  Seeing no one, Senator Withem, do you wish to close on the advancement of LB 245.


WITHEM:  I would urge the ...  urge the advancement of




the...of the bill.  I just ...  one final thing maybe I could comment ...  take a little point of personal privilege, that this is probably, may well be the last bill that this Legislature gets an opportunity to act upon that has had the, the able input and support of my Legislative Counsel, Larry Scherer.  Most of you know, I think by now, that Larry is going to be joining the Postsecondary Coordinating Commission here in a couple of weeks, and I for one appreciate all the work he's done for the Education Committee and I'm sure the other members do too, so this may be your last chance to act upon a Larry Scherer-drafted set of amendments, so I appreciate your support for them.


SPEAKER BAACK:  Thank you, Senator Withem.  You've heard the closing on the advancement of LB 245.  We will now vote on the advancement.  Ding.  We are voting oil tile advancement of LB 245.  Have you all voted?  Record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  34 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on the advancement of LB 245.


SPEAKER BAACK:  LB 245 advances.  We will now proceed to LB 245A.


CLERK:  Mr. President, LB 245A was introduced by Senator Withem in February of last year.  (Read title.) I have no amendments pending at this time.


SPEAKER BAACK:  Senator Withem on LB 245A.


SENATOR WITHEM:  Okay, the re ...  there were some amendments.  They're fairly slight, and beings I said that that was the last Larry Scherer amendment, I guess I won't race up and put it up here, so just ask you to advance the A bill at this time.  We'll have some work oil ...  on the...the A bill between now and Select File probably.  That.  that probably ably by the way will I I be the last screw-up that Larry Scherer wilt make as Counsel of tile Education Committee.  Thank you.


SPEAKER BAACK:  Anyone wishing to speak to the advancement of LB 245A?  Seeing no one, Senator Withem, do you wish to close?  Senator Withem, do you wish to close?


SENATOR WITHEM:  Ask you to advance the A bill.


SPEAKER BAACK:  We will now vote on the advancement of LB 245A.