LB 245 (1992)
January 9, 1992
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.
WITHEM: I think we'll withdraw
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.
MOUL: Thank you, Senator Withem. Senator Nelson, do you wish to address
the committee amendments?
NELSON: No, the bill.
MOUL: Senator Withem, we'll
proceed with a vote on the committee amendments and, if you wan ... want to encourage Senator Withem.
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.
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.
MOUL: Committee amendments are not
CLERK: Madam President, Senator, would you
like to offer your amendment now, Senator Withem?
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...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
much to the way it was previous to this.
With that, if you have any questions, I'd be happy to respond.
MOUL: Thank you, Senator
Withem. Senator Nelson, you wish
to speak to the amendment.
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.
MOUL: Thank you, Senator
Nelson. Senator Wesely. Senator Wesely waives. Senator Robinson.
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
of...you 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?
WITHEM: At this... at this point ... at this point, the concept of sanctions
and rewards is riot included in this ...I
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
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 ...
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.
MOUL: Thank you, Senator
Robinson. Senator Moore.
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 to...at 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
WITHEM: Okay, first of all, a lot of the former
have been ones where basically we begin by taking a
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
MOORE: No, just thank you for your
response. It was very good.
MOUL: Thank you, Senator Moore. Senator Dierks.
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.
MOUL: Thank you, Senator
Dierks. Senator Abboud.
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
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.
MOUL: Thank you Senator Abboud. Senator Chambers.
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
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 ...
BAACK: One minute.
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
BAACK: Time. Is there anyone else who wishes
to. address this amendment by
Senator Withem? Seeing none,
Senator Withem, do you wish to close?
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.
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.
BAACK: The amendment is adopted.
CLERK: I have nothing further on the bill, Mr.
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
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
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.
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.
BAACK: Senator Withem on LB 245A.
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.
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?
WITHEM: Ask you to advance the A
BAACK: We will now vote on the
advancement of LB 245A.