Committee on Education

LB 1228

February 2, 1998


Page 2


end and so from now to the rest of the hearing session, we will have to hear seven bills each day.  So if people try to keep that in mind when you're offering testimony, that we have a large number of bills.  We realize that sometimes some take more time but if people try to work with us, we'll try our best to give everyone a chance to testify who wishes to.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Could I see, before Senator Bohlke gets started, could I see a number of hands that...  I have a list here but I don't...  I'm not sure how many people want to testify on 1228.  Okay, thank you very much, fourteen of you.  Senator Bohlke.


LB 1228


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Yes, Senator Suttle and colleagues, today I open on LB 1228.  There are a number of components, actually, to the bill; and the committee has been involved in, over the., interim, working on quite a few of them that appear before you in this bill.  So let me begin by going over and highlighting some of those and then getting to the amendment we have to offer, and then to your questions.  First of all, 1228 does create the Quality Education Accountability Act and there are really three components of the Act.  Our quality education incentives, a financial reporting system, and a testing program.  Over the years, I think, a number of us have heard from school districts saying that they would really like to do some ...  offer some extra things in their curriculum but have been unable to because of a lack of funds.  At the same time, we have had the lottery funds where schools have applied for those ...  for that lottery money through a grant system.  We also, over the last few years, have heard a great deal of criticism, not about the funds going to schools; but, actually --he grant application and it had become rather cumbersome; and, that actually in Nebraska, we realize most ...  a great many of those grants have been used in the area of technology.  We've done a great deal.  And so what this does is say, let's look at that again.  Let's look at making that...  I think before I was a member of the Legislature, I remember the issue and the vote put to the people on lottery money.  And I remember, as someone having been involved in education, that part of it would go to education and then


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the other word I remember was innovative.  And so, I think that this very definitely keeps that commitment to the public when they voted for the lottery money.  It's just, how we're going to do it in a different manner.  And I think would bring some new enthusiasm and excitement to schools as to ...  and I guess we'll hear what they think as to what they may be able to do with that money.  It does say that schools have to have some things in place, that we feel, as I ...  as the committe, I think, has discussed, programs that really push quality.  A quality learning environment for students who may be high-ability learners; but at the same time, they may be students who need an alternative setting in order for them to be successful in school.  Both of those programs are things that, when they are present within a school system, we know that there's a commitment, not only for the general population student; but looking to do thing beyond the status quo to make sure that students have an opportunity .for a,,I.v.ery quality curriculum.  We have said that a school 0 standard and district needs to have standards I an currently, the bill states that they need to have adopted statewide standards as created and adopted...  I can't think of the exact wording, but by the State Board of Education.  We do have an amendment I will explain that says that instead of saying that that a school district may have their own standards as long as they meet or exceed those from the State Board.  And I think there was some concern, were we mandating the .standards to schools when they are to be voluntary in Nebraska.  And so I think this meets that concern in allowing that flexibility for schools.  The other point that we spent a great deal of time talking about over the last...well, first of all, they have to have the standards.  Then they have to have either the alternative education plan.  Schools contacted us and said, well, wait a minute.  Wonder if we've never had an expelled student.  Will we not ...  will we be able to qualify?  Yes, you will, because all you have.  to do is have a plan in place and I do have an amendment.  I'll go over the specifics that specifies what we mean by that so that when you do, if the occasion occurs when you do need to expel a student, that you have an educational plan in place for that student.  The 'same for gifted education.  It requires you to either have a program .or perhaps you're looking at this and you're on the board of education and it's April.  And you are looking ...  and you would be interested in doing gifted education.  You then ...  or education for high-ability learners.  You would


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make that application to the Department of Education under the criteria that they have developed in order to qualify, have a public vote on it to put it in for next year, and that would qualify you.  And so, it's really pushing those programs to make sure that schools with those then get the incentive payment.  The last thing that says is that least sixty percent of the graduating seniors have taken a standard college admissions test and those students have an average score above the statewide average.  It's an attempt to look at some measurement that quality education is occurring.  Now we also, in an amendment, addressed the issue that if we look across the United States, large urban areas very often have difficulty meeting that standard for all the reasons, normally, they use the gauge of poverty, but you've all read about the demographics that are apparent in those very large urban areas.  And so, we're saying for that, that they have to meet the national ...  exceed the national average.  Just recently, Congress actually, has passed legislation that we will be seeing in the state that have.  an.  impact on a great deal of the testing..  that we.  do, not just particularly in this area, but when we get to our statewide testing that's going to require us to test all special education students.  Currently, the way in this bill, as we get to the testing provision that requires a statewide test for schools which this.  committee passed unanimously out of committee last session; and is on General File.  But, we put it in here because we certainly think when we're talking quality education, that that's a part of it.  And hearing from the Department of Education when they had a request that we would take out the specific grades, and allow them to name the grades beings they're developing the test, that that certainly made sense also, so we do do that.  But it is going to make a difference, I think, for a number of school districts.  And looking at a test, and I would assume, from a number of testing companies that they are going to have to reflect that or come up with something in the development of their tests that will allow that to take place.  So it does also say that a school district needs to have ...  that the state will have a statewide test.  That we do not take from the lottery funds but that has an A bill.  We also say that we think it's important, and we had an interim study on this, for a financial reporting system.  And it says, the State Board of Education shall require and provide a financial reporting system for all local systems beginning with the 1999 school year.  And the


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reporting system shall provide' standardized data to the public and the department in a consistent format that explains ...  easily explains to taxpayers ...  easily in important ...  how education funds are spent and where the funds are generated for the state, each local system, and each attendance center.  If there's one thing that from the general public I think we often here, it's that we have made it very difficult for them to simply understand how we're spending their money.  I think, in Nebraska, we can look to the fact that we have great support for public education.  But I've said this on a number of occasions, that people want to understand how we spent their money.  Now some...oftentimes schools will say, and I was on a board of education where we would have our public hearings on the budget and no one would show up.  Well, I think part of the reason that that happens is because no one even knows what questions to ask.  So not only have we heard that from the general public, we have had some school districts who have adopted programs that are a new way of reporting on how their districts spend their money and those board members have said, it has been a very good tool for them.  It makes it easier for them to understand and easier for them to explain to their taxpayers how they're spending their money.  I think, in the end, and I've said this before, it just generally helps the support of public education because, as we have seen some of the initiatives and some of the push from people on property tax and looking at...and realizing, that schools generally take about sixty percent of that, that they really do want to make sure that they understand it.  When they do, I think we help generate support for public education.  As I said, there are ...  there's a fiscal note that you will see that talks about the testing program and the accounting package.  Both of those would actually depend a little bit from the State Board of Education and the Department of Education as what they determine to use.  I think I saw the Commissioner here and I think Kathleen McCallister is coming today.  As I understand, they're using Buros Institute to look at three particular tests that they may use in order to have that reflect the standards.  And so, depending on that, that will have some determination of the cost.  When the committee had the group from Iowa come forward and three others to testify to us about the cost of a statewide testing program, they said, you could ...  the range all the way from the very least expensive of five dollars per student, all the way up to ...  if you really


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wanted it to have a criterion piece, up to fifteen dollars.  But you remember, we won't be doing every student; we'll be doing three grades levels and so that is reflected in the fiscal note.  Now some of those have a writing component with them.  But it is also up to the State Board of Education to decide, it says, we may also use our own state writing assessment.  And I think you heard it at a couple of public hearings over the interim from members of the ESU who have created, for our state, a writing assessment and a number of school districts now use it.  And so, that authority will be left with the State Board of Education to decide how we will do that.  But this says, it must have a writing piece to that testing program.  The amendment that I have here, (Exhibit A) and if I could have Justin pass it out, does address the issue I pointed to you with standards.  The ...  specifically address the plan for alternative if ...  for schools for an alternative education, if no expelled students, just to reaffirm the ...  and restate for those schools who have never had an expelled student, that yes they may qualify, they just have to have a plan in place, if they do have an expelled student.  The issue with the large urban district with thirty percent in poverty; and then the other point is, if there would be, at some time, that this would take all of the lottery money, that then it would be on a pro rata system at that time.  Of course, we do not know, we can make some kind of an estimate as how many students may qualify for this, but we do not know precisely.  Sorry, Senator Beutler.  I'm thinking of the discussion on the floor today.  But we do not know how many schools would qualify.  And then, the amendment also does say, the payments would go to the high school who consult with the Class I's to pay the Class I's for how they would qualify.  And, I think with that, as I said, I know this is a large issue.  One that's going to take a great deal of discussion, but one that I'm excited to finally talk to you about things is that I think improve the quality of education available to students.  I'm not even sure we need a printout.  That makes me happy also.  Probably makes the department happy also.  And really gives us an opportunity, I think, to talk about things that this committee would like to see, to really push quality education in the state.  And so, I think the last thing that I hope that you will hear is a positive from schools that the money from the lottery, if they qualify, goes to them as a payment with no strings attached.  Some people have said, that's unlike things, how we.  usually do


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things.  And I said, that's true.  But if you have a school district and if you have a board of education and a superintendent who have made the commitment to do these programs, I think that they have demonstrated a commitment to doing things beyond the status quo, to making sure that there's opportunity for all types of students to really have a quality curriculum.  If they are willing to make that kind of decision, then I think we would be willing to give them the freedom to dedicate the dollars as they wish.  I think it also simplifies not having to track and keep track of those.  However, if we do have the accounting system in place, the statewide accounting, certainly the taxpayers and everyone would be able to see how those dollars are being spent.  But it does allow them the freedom to decide what they would like to do to spend their money that would be a priority for their local school district and their local community, whatever that may be.  And so, I look forward to hearing from a number of school districts, their reactions, how they feel about it.  There are a number of ideas, as I said, here In the bill; and I look forward with working with the committee.  I have named it as my priority bill and so, with that, I will close and make one last request that Bevin Brown who is the superintendent from the Thedford Schools was kind enough to drive in from Thedford, said he was interested in the bill.  I said, well, we will get you on the road quickly and so he's going to come ...  follow me and testify and then I did have a request from Kathleen McCallister from ...  representing the State Board of Education and I said we would be happy to do that.  Those are the only two specific requests I had.  We had a number of people say they wanted to testify but in order of their appearance, those two requests.  So with that, Senator Suttle, I'll .answer any questions from the committee.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Are there any questions from the committee?  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Senator Bohlke, just one question regarding the components of the bill, incentives, reporting system, and a testing program.  One of those three you could probably argue, is not exactly in the pack of things that has directly to do with quality education, namely the financial reporting.  I think you've made a good case, that needs to be included but it's not really directly aimed at the issue of quality education.  And, in fact, under this


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bill, why only those schools that were designated as. quality, I guess, in this sense would be required to do financial reporting.  You wouldn't ...  you wouldn't be asking financial reporting of schools that did not.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  I probably was in error, Senator Raikes, of not explaining it correctly.  Actually, there are two parts to this that all schools would have to do.  That would be the statewide test, what I called the accountability test, the assessment and the accountability.  And so that's apart really, in your mind, have to think of those two things all school districts would have to do.  And.  then, in order to qualify for the incentives, there are those four, standards, the high-ability' learners, the alternative program, and sixty percent of graduating seniors having taken a standard college admission test in scoring.  So thank you for that because I probably did not make that clear.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other 'questions from the committee?  Seeing none, we'll ask Mr. Brown to come forward.  Mr. Brown.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Mister.  It's Bevin Brown...


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Bevin, okay.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  ...from Thedford.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  That's all right.  I told him we all know, because the committee knows how far it is to Thedford.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Yes, we do.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  We were there.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  We know that.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  We were very empathetic to letting him going next.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  We know Thedford.


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BEVIN BROWN:  Well, thank you for allowing me to speak first.  I have a basketball game I need to supervise at seven o clock and this will make it so I can get there.  I thought I would first start off to kind of let folks know where we're at and what we're about as far as the school.  I represent a Class I elementary school district in Thedford itself; and also the high school district which is a Class VI; also serve as County Superintendent for Thomas County.  We have, on the average, about a hundred and thirty-seven students over the last five years.  Our staff consists of seventeen staff members, and, of course, the guidance counselor, librarian, and myself as the sole administrator for the school.  Forty percent of my staff are master teachers and two hold specialist degrees.  We also have a part-time school psychologist on staff, too.  Some of our students travel as far as forty-three miles a day to get to school and twenty-three of those miles are on single lane, Sandhills roads, if you've experienced that, it's quite interesting.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Could you ...  while you're pausing, could you identify yourself, for the record?


BEVIN BROWN:  Yes.  I am Bevin Brown, Superintendent of Schools, Thedford Schools.  Over the past five years, we've seen our salaries raise eight percent and our budget raise a hundred and ten thousand which is about ten percent.  And so, we've basically kept our budget almost the same for the last five years.  Our students typically score very high when we look at the testing, and ninety percent as a minimum of our students, take the ACT.  In fact, in talking with my counselor, it's closer to a hundred percent because, very seldom, do we have a student that does not take the testing.  Over fifty percent of our students, typically are on the honor roll and I can truly say that I can count my dropouts for the last five years on one hand.  We've had three and that's with a requirement of two hundred and fifty credit hours, also.  We do operate a preschool, at the present time, serving area schools as well as our own and we also have activities available for our gifted, through academic computations, problem solving, accelerated reader, and other programs such as this.  We do have distance learning on the way.  We were part of that grant so that will be also available and Internet service is available in all of our classrooms.  We also currently are operating a 504 program


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which is a program operated for students at risk that are not in special education.  It's a pilot program.  We're very proud of that, too.  So that's a little bit about our school and I guess I'd like to address some of the things in LB 1228.  As far as academic standards, we believe that we typically exceed those standards when they're offered and we do also offer an alternative program for our students.  It's there.  It hasn't been used because we don't have anybody that dropped out in recent years.  And as I said, ninety to ninety-five percent of our students take the ACT so as far as academic standards, we welcome that.  One of the things that we look at is that we can be compared with other schools probably on a little bit better basis because we'll all be coming from the same place.  As far as accountability, of course, everyone wants to know how we spend our money.  We currently are working to get down to the dollar-ten and we're quite confident that we'll be able to do so.  We have a computer system in our school that we utilize our accounting for.  I also have the luxury of having a business manager in Thedford which may seem a bit unusual but 1, guess' it comes out of my salary, so I don't get paid quite as much.  But that's fine because we're there because of choice.  As a superintendent, I also do have a Class I that I'm directly in charge of; and we do have one Class I that's out in the country that we do have a friendly relationship with and have had for many years; and I believe the accountability section that speaks to the fact that they would be reporting to us in a manner that we can readily use would be quite helpful to me, as I now have to look at how to set those budgets for all the school districts in the area.  Statewide testing, as we begin to look at this issue, we've been receiving some of the standards that have been approved.  I have the January 9, the Board of Education dealing with mathematic standards for kindergarten-first grade.  In discussing that with my staff, we find that de are doing all of, those things and plus.  We currently test all of our students in grades four, five, six, eight, and ten.  And I guess our thinking is, that to be testing the same that other schools are, might make it a little bit easier for us to really see where we are at.  We think we're doing a fine job, but that way we could stack up against everybody.  We all have the same deck of cards to play with.  I typically don't like mandates and I'm sure most schools don't.  But, I guess in this case, as we are due to receive standards for curriculum, if that's on the way, it only


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follows that there would be a need for testing that matches those standards so that as we teach, that we test what we teach, and therefore it fits together.  And I guess with that, I would like to go on the record that, representing a typically small remote in the center of the state, extreme remote, it's been classified, I believe that this would be beneficial to schools such as ours; and, like I said, we'll be support of LB 1228.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.  Are there any questions from the committee?  I see none.  Thank you so much for coming.


BEVIN BROWN:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  While Ms.  McAllister is coming forward, Dr.  Mackiel, I've been given a note, needs to get back by three-thirty so he will be after the department head and the board-head.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Kathleen McCallister, President of the State Board of Education and to my left is Dr.  Doug Christensen who is Commissioner of Education, not to be confused with the Speaker, although often that happens these days.  We're glad ...  well, people think they've talked to one and they've talked to the other, I hear that a lot.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Yeah, you gotta remember it's spelled differently, right?




SENATOR SUTTLE:  That's right.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I'm pleased to be here on behalf of the State Board in support of LB 1228 and I just would preface all of my comments by beginning a thank you to Senator Bohlke for bringing forward issues that the State Board has been talking about; and thank her, also, as well as the committee support for continuing to meet with the chair and the vice chair of the committee, and the president and the vice president of the State Board, to continue dialogue on these important issues as it relates to 1228 and other educational issues.  For about the last fifteen years, I think the State Board failed to advance a lot of these


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kinds of issues and many of the concerns that I know Senators have and share with the State Board.  And we've been playing catch-up, quite frankly, for about the last four or five years.  We have a new commissioner, who to his credit, has moved many of those things forward and working with a board that's very eager to get ahead of the curve as opposed to continually being in a position to be reacting to legislation and we'd like to be bringing these issues to you.  But we applaud Senator Bohlke for raising the issues that clearly have to do with excellence and indicating excellence throughout the schools in Nebraska.  There are a number of sections in the bill and I guess I would just run very quickly through those and give an overview of what the Board's conversation as well as standing positions have been on these issues.  As it relates to the academic standards and the alternative schools and the specificity of incentive payments that Senator Bohlke's outlined, these are clearly indicators of excellence that the Board would support continuing dialogue about..  Whether it's in the bill in their exact form now or as she's amended.  Also the issues of.  dealing with the whole issue of finance.  I guess I'm going to digress for just a minute and go back to my service of eight years as a local board member and tell you that one of the biggest problems that we had in convincing people that we were doing a good job at the local board, was that whole conversation about school finance, Senator Raikes, and it was tough because we didn't have the same ...  we didn't have the same language.  And one of the things that I advanced at the local level was one of many that's available, but was a Coopers and Lybrand model that was used to begin to have- a dialogue with the public about school finance in order to talk about quality and talk about spending.  And whether it's that particular format that would be chosen or something similar to that, I can tell you the one thing that is extremely positive about a consistent financial reporting system, you get a dialogue going that I would call like a truth-in-spending dialogue so that people that are on the outside looking in understand the language, that they've helped to define what the terms are so that when we talk about how much schools are spending, they know what that means, whether that includes grant money, if that includes federal money, if it includes, you know, local money, property tax money.  All the conversations that the public gets lost in when you talk about general funds as opposed to asbestos removal funds and retirement funds and


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all of those kind of things.  You didn't think I knew those, did you?




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I actually was a local board member for eight years.  But it ...  actually, it helped that truth-in-spending issue to have that conversation with the public and we have many of our critics come around and begin to understand and talk more about the quality of issues.  So I very much am supportive and the Board would be supportive of having that opportunity to have that dialogue on the truth-in-spending.  Under Section 4 of the bill, the State Board has, as Senator Bohlke mentioned, undertaken a feasibility study with the Buros Institute-at the university to take a look at the testing and the accountability testing that's being done at the local levels now.  Taking a look at three tests that are commonly used in the state of Nebraska and to see how closely those can and do align with state standards.  The option that the State Board has continued to advance on the testing issue Is that we would give schools a range of testing that would be an option as opposed to a single test.  It's not been our intent to develop a single one, but rather to use what they're currently using because they're comfortable with it; and, understanding that we, as a state, are the audit piece, we are not the first line of defense for accountability.  That's the local board's job.  And we have consistently felt that the state coming in and taking a look at it from the perspective of an audit perspective was the one that we wanted to look at, to periodically check to see how they are doing.  But I think that the...many of the items in the bill are things that the State Board would like continue to have discussion on, encourage the committee, even in a short session, to dialogue on all of these issues.  And we truly look forward to being partners in this process and appreciate the Senators' recognition that when you all go home at the end of the session, we stay, and we have to take care of the rest of the issues that schools are addressing year round.  So we appreciate the opportunity to work together and allowing us that flexibility and the freedom to be able to address the issues that hear from schools pretty consistently, as you do as well.  Doug, I don't know if you had anything.


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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I'd just add one comment to what Kathleen has said.  I think one of the things that stuck out in this bill to me was the recognition of the power that incentives have to change things as opposed to mandates and in 806 there are incentives for some reorganization that has a lot to do with ...  not all of the conversation in local districts about reorganization.  It needs to be ...  to be negative because they are ...  have declining resources due to the tax levy lids, and budget lids, and so forth; but also the fact that through those incentives a quality education program, by joining with other schools, can be accomplished.  And I think that one of the things that this bill does is create some incentives for schools to do the kind of things that are the right things to do.  We hope to continue.  The second thing is we know now, it is a matter of record and we appreciate it, that this bill will not require a printout.  (laughter)


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Be happy to answer" any questions


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions from the committee?  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Commissioner, over the summer I was involved in discussions, strictly, one piece and that was the reporting piece.  I'm not quite sure whether the language here accommodates it or not, I think in some respects it does; but is the system that might be employed, is it important to just provide reports to the patrons of a district or is it also important for filing reports and information for your office or other offices in a database format that might then be accessible from anywhere in the state?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I think it's all of that.  I think ...  the one dimension of reporting is an accounting system taht makes sense to the way that function of bookkeeping takes place.  But that system will not do a good job of reporting to policymakers such as the local board of education or the State Legislature or citizens at large because an accounting system will get into far too many subprograms and categories of expenditures that it becomes overwhelming.  And what ...  what we think needs to happen is the whole system of accounting and reporting needs to go through a rethinking process.  What are the policy issues out there so the


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questions can be, how much are you spending on math education, how much are you spending at the elementary level on art, or any subprogram you want to pick out?  Our current system does not permit that to be done very well.  And I don't know whether I even answered your question, but.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Ummm.  No, you didn't, but we're...


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  But it sounded good to me.  (laughter)


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, we're going ...  we're going to break it up into little pieces here...


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Okay, that'll help.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  because I do want to know what you're talking about.  (laughter)




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  I agree with you that accounting systems are different than reporting systems and I think you talked about both.  Okay, an accounting system gives you little codes, categories in which to put expenditures or receipts.  Okay, we've agreed so far.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  You've already got a comprehensive system that does that.  In fact, I think the department has been far ahead of other areas in local accounting, if you will, in specifying those account numbers.  Are you ...  are you suggesting that it's necessary to go back and rework those account numbers in some way to establish a different accounting system?  That little process of categorizing and pigeonholing things?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  It's not necessary to do that.




DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  However, it's been twenty years since the format of this current accounting system...




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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  ...  was looked at.  And that was my point.  There are a number of reporting models that you lay on top of the current accounting system...




DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  ...  to be able to pull them out in multiple ways.




DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  What's not there in our current methodology is to pull them out in multiple ways.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  Now ...  but I understand that the reason that you need a good accounting system is you that want to make sure everybody puts the same thing in the same little pigeonholes.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  That's exactly...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Because that creates the database for the next function and that's the reporting function.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  So, you're expecting this language to address both the pigeonholing system, the database creation, and then extracting information from that into a reporting system.  Is that what?  Is that what you think this contemplates?




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay, and that's what ...  from a State Board perspective?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Absolutely.  And I think that'll be useful for the locals as well, I think that's what we're hearing from them that they're interested in.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  I just want to make sure that we're doing ...  thinking about doing both.


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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  Now, the reporting system.  Is that a reporting system that is supposed to be tailored to the needs of the patrons of a school district, is that the audience?  Or is there some other audience for the reporting system?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, my take on it and I'll let Kathleen respond to hers, is that the...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  And, again, I'm asking for your perspective from the State Board because...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  as you're aware, I sat through a...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  a number of meetings this summer, I think quite productive, as a matter of fact, but I wanted to know what the State Board's perspective is.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I think it's the issue of local policymakers in terms of the local boards.  They can't do their job if also the public can't understand the budget.  When a board member can't explain how expenditures are being made without the assistance of the superintendent, in terms of categories of expenses like, how much it cost to teach math at the elementary level?  In broad terms, you should be able to respond to that and several of the models and then the ones you cited is an example that typically will give board members that information.  Not necessarily that they can carry it around it in their head, but they can access it very quickly.  And so, I think it's both of those.  What you're trying to do is enhance the policymaking decision process and you enhance that at the local level by making sure.  your patrons are informed and your board is informed and the same thing happens at the state level.  Public policy is only an good as the public understand it to be.  So, I think ...  from my sense, it would be ...  the target would be, policymakers at the local and state level.  From the standpoint of a person who serves as a board member, the target audience is likely to be the public...


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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  ...  because that's the...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  ...  Senator Wickersham, I think it's all three.  As a local patron, before I ever ran for a board, I couldn't understand why it was that the general fund wasn't the total amount of money that the school spent.  I didn't understand why that didn't match.  And I became a local board member, it was always tough to explain that to people.  There are lots of different components.  And then, thirdly, as a state policymaker now, I will tell you that .it's extremely frustrating to be able to look at what would appear to be answers to the Legislature and to other parties about what's the appropriate level of spending on a comparative basis?  What is it that we spend...  I'll give you a good example.  We started having conversation about the ESUs.  How much money do we really need to have to assist local school districts in the retraining of teachers in that whole in-service area.  What is it that we're currently spending?  The answer to that is totalling unavailable because we don't report it that way currently.  So, it's a combination of audiences and ...  the key I think is to get all of -that ...  all of that information in one place, including federal spending, including the funding that may come from grants, or from other sources that local districts may have access to.  I've heard those questions asked of this committee as well.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Ah, well, okay, again I need to try...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Maybe you're not understanding.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well ...  no, I do understand you.  I think you've said that there are three audiences, the patrons of the district, the local board, and the state board and other policymakers.  Okay.  Now, what I want to ask now is what kind of information do you think the system...  I think I have a hint about the information that you think ought to be provided for the local policymakers and that's as much as you can provide, I think.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  And then some.  (laughter)


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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  There's nodding, for the record.  Okay.  (laughter)


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Yes, and then some.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Now, what kind of information should the system provide to state policymakers, whether the.  State Board of Education or the Legislature?  Surely, we don't want to receive all of that data...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay, so you...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  contemplate that we develop reports, either in the current format or some other format that this system ...  you'd be able to produce those reports on that system?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I don't know that there would be...  I mean, the Board hasn't taken it so far as to consider if there would be regular reporting of certain ...  of certain kinds of questions.




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  But I'll give you ...  the example of the ESUs and answering the question for the Legislature.  What's the appropriate amount of money to give to ESUs to do in-service for teachers?  The answer to that would have been easy had we had this kind of a system in place.  It would have been easy together.  The answer to that now is, we think it's about ...  you know, a certain amount of money.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  So you're envisioning the system as a way to have the response to ad hoc questions?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  In part.  I also think...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Or do you think it should be used to answer regular questions?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I think there'll be both.  I think


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there'll be both, regular questions and ad hoc questions.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  And then, should ...  are you contemplating that that system might be an electronic system...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM: that you don't have to file by paper?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Yes.  If it's filed by paper, it won't work, Senator.






SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Maybe you can make it work.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  If you want to hire a thousand people...




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  ...maybe, but I just don't see it working.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  And then ...  and then ...  and again this is ...  and I'm asking about components here that I don't think are necessarily in the bill but I want to know what the State Board is expecting of it.  Then, the information that would be available, would you contemplate making that available on some sort of a statewide accessible basis...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  should you ...  should you be able to access, I think the terminology is somebody's web page, probably your web page, wouldn't it be?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Sure, absolutely.  Senator...




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KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  ...  I could even see it coming to the point where we could sell a floppy disk of the information and you could take it as a study group, at the local level, and study whether or not you're in line with what other school districts in the state are doing and selling that information to local districts or making it available on a floppy.  I mean, it should be complete access to that information.  There's a lot of ways that you can ask the same question, too, and got different answers, an you well know.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  Now, part of the things that I've asked you about are not components of what I understand the one kind of financial reporting system that we've been discussing and that's the Cooper's system.  As I understand it, it doesn't doesn't have anything to do with he underlying accounting system, it doesn't have anything to do with electronic reporting, it doesn't have anything to do with statewide accessibility.  of the information that it produces.  Those would be extra pieces that you might have to 'add on even if you develop ...  or even if you contracted touse something like Coopers, is that accurate?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I ...  I ...  maybe, Doug, you can answer that but as I see it and understand the way Coopers currently works is that it can ...  and I don't want it to be just Coopers and Lybrand because there are other models that are out there that are also very good.  I just happen to be familiar with that one, is why I raised it.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  No, I understand that but I'm...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  But, I just want to sure, for the record, people don't misunderstand me.  I'm not trying to shove that down anybody's throat, as a state board member, because we're not.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, what I'm really interested in is getting to the focus that we're really talking about an integrated system that is accounting and reporting, both...and reporting at both the local and the state level and we're not ...  and that, hopefully, we can wind up with something that provides beneficial information at all those levels.  That doesn't sound too Utopian, is that what you're all interested in?


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KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  And frankly, I think that'...




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  ..,and the reason I sell you the Coopers is that I've seen it and it actually can do those things.




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  The other interesting component, as well, Senator, in dealing with that is that there are now models out there where you can piggyback standardized test scores on top of financial data and be able to tell you whether or not you're getting it done for the money you're spending, if your test scores are reasonable.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  And I know that 'over the summer ...  in fact, I sat in at one meeting where we a considerable discussion about a testing program and I'm really still unsettled about those provisions in the bill but I don't think I'm well enough informed to even ask questions.  But I don't know what...there's several references to, in the singular a testing package or a recognized testing service or a writing test.  I ...  and it...but then there's also a reference to a statewide testing program.  Do you have any conception about whether or not we'd be talking about tests in the singular or tests in the multiple, to achieve the objective?




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  It's...  (laugh)


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, the program would relate to the whole thing as to grade levels such as four, eight, and twelve.  It would relate to the number of times ...  or the number of subject areas that you might test in, math, science, language, or social studies.  That would be the program side of it.  The actual tests themselves could be multiple tests.  We may find that one test works best at the primary grades.  We may find that a second test works better


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at the secondary grades so, I mean, there could be all of those things.  The intention would be that there is some measurement that we agree on for a particular subject or a particular grade level so that the notion of comparison of districts in the sense that we want to benchmark ourself against the high-performing district, how do they do what they do and get such high scores in reading?  All those things can happen but that's part of what our feasibility study is supposed to tell us, whether or not all those things can get done with current and existing kinds of assessments.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  And Buros should have their system, what, in September, I believe?.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  We expect to see the results in June.  The policy questions that we'll address will be probably in September.


SENATOR.  WICKERSHAM:  Well, what I want to really know is.  how you interpret the language that appears on page 4, in lines 23 through 26.  It says, "A testing package shall be purchased as a part of the testing program from a recommended testing service and shall have components testing students in the areas of mathematics, reading, science, and social studies." What does that mean?  A testing package from a recognized testing service?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, it is highly likely that an assessment system would be related to one particular package of tests.  In other words, an Iowa Test, a basic skills, a California Achievement Test, it is not likely that they would hopscotch around.  However, that's why we're doing the feasibility study.  I forgot the other part of the question you asked.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  No, that's all right.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Different parts.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  He ...  the other part of the question was, different parts of ...  and different disciplines of learning.


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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I tell you, rather than belaboring this, I know so little about testing that I ...  and I'm almost certain to got myself into difficulty.  Maybe it's something I'll discuss with you at another time.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I'll call you.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I think those who might...  I've been tested.  (laughter)


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  And it made a world of difference, didn't it?


SENATOR SUTTLE:  And did you qualify?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I passed.  (laughter) But I don't know...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Senator, one of those tests is.  going to be a minimum competency test before anyone could run for state senator so, you know, I'm sure that there'll be a lot of senators that will be...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I passed that test twice.  (laughter)


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I know you did.  (laughter)


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other...


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I'll call you and we'll talk.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Thank you.  Great.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions from ...  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  I'll ask a quick one.  I'm looking on page ...  or subsection 6 under Section 4.  It says, "The individual test scores shall be confidential, shall be reported to the school district for educational purposes." I guess I was wondering, would system be an appropriate substitute for district In that context?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I would think they'd mean the same thing.


SENATOR RAIKES:  They would.  So that...


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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, if you're referring to the affiliated system?




DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I don't know.  I would guess, at first blush, I would assume they would mean the same thing.  Did you ...  well, I don't know what you intended it to mean.


TAMMY BARRY:  They would not be subject to the bill, it would need to say...


SENATOR RAIKES:  so would it be a good idea to have system instead of district?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Well, actually, I ...  just ...  the district would make more sense to me because then you could.  combine it, supporting "the system, which you have the data ...  if you only have system data, you can't report it out separately by districts.  So it makes sense, as legal counsel as stated it, to put it by district.  Then it could be configured in a variety of different ways, if you have the most amount of data that way.


SENATOR RAIKES:  But, presumably, a district would receive more data than the next level up$ whoever aggregates ...  aggregates the data so if you were a district, you would receive individual scores maybe, whereas if you were...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  A local school district should be the only people that ever have individual student test score data.  And the way the State Board would receive it or the State Legislature, if the department would receive it, it would be aggregated, meaning that all of the students scores would be collectively given to the state.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay, I understand.  But what you're saying is that the system, which in some cases will have financial control over a district, should not have access to the individual test scores, it should just be the district.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  The individual test scores should remain with the home district.  I...certainly that's a


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question local boards should be asked but it would be my feeling, as a former local board member, I don't really think that it would be their place unless it's a collective planning, you know, enterprise of a sort, where a system is making all of their data available and they're working together on some collective project.  But I think that would really be a local decision.  I hesitate any time local scores go out of a local district.  I get very concerned.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Beutler, did you have a question?


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Thanks.  I'm interested in a number of things but very interested in the interpretation of (d) in Section 2.  That's the section that provides for the incentive payments to a local system provided certain criteria are met.  Four different criteria, the last criteria, "At least sixty percent of the' graduating seniors in the local system have taken a standard college admissions test and those students have an aggregate average score above the statewide average on the examination taken." What I wanted to ask you, Dr.  Christensen, first of all if you happen to know, generally speaking, whether sixty percent of the graduating seniors in most of our local systems, all of our local systems, some of our local systems, currently take the standard college admissions test?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  On a statewide average, approximately seventy-five percent of the juniors take the ACT.  That isn't school by school, but on a statewide basis.  We've had as high as close to eighty percent of- the kids taking the ACT.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay, so most of the schools would meet the sixty percent already?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  It would appear that way.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  And if you ...  if you take a test in your junior year and you take it again in your senior year?  How do you count those scores?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, the way I would interpret this way, would be it would make no difference in what year as long as


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that average aggregate score was in excess of the statewide average.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  So all of the scores from kids who took the test in a particular year would be counted in reaching that statewide average?  Regardless of the year in school they were when the took the test?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  That would be the way I would interpret it.  I think we'd have to think that through as to the extent to which ...  we have a number of students who take it as a trial run in their junior year and then got serious, about it in their senior year, whether that affects...would affect that because we wouldn't want to diminish that either.  And yet that could hurt a local district's test scores if that's what they were trying to achieve.  We certainly wouldn't want to have a negative incentive there.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  And what interpretation would you make with respect to, the situation that I think currently exists., in most schools that there is the ACT test and then there's the SAT test.  In most ...  maybe not most schools, an awful lot of schools have a lot of students who take both of those tests.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Ten percent of the kids take the SAT and we don't...  I don't think any of the public schools would have a problem with the ...  without forcing kids to take the ACT to get to the sixty percent.




DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Some will get close because there are some schools that do have more taking the SAT than the ten percent but I don't think if you combine it...or if you subtract that out that they would still fall below the ability to have sixty percent of their kids taking it.  Very few kids take the SAT in this state.  They're going to...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  But you would add on the SAT kids in order to reach the sixty percent if you had to?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  You could.  I would think that that...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Would that be your interpretation?


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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I think this language would permit it.  other than it says, 'a test".  I don't think it necessarily excludes it to being one.  So I don't know why you could not do that.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  And let's say that you had a large number of kids taking the ACT and a significant number of kids taking the SAT and on one they were over the statewide ,average and on the other they were under.  How would you interpret that?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  That's a problem.  We'd need a printout, I think or something.  (laughter) I don't know.  That's a good question.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I knew I could get us to a printout.  (laughter)


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  There are ways to aggregate those two groups together I'm not sure how valid.  I'd have to check with some statisticians but you could take disparate scores, disparate sizes of groups, aggregate those scores together, and come up with a single score representing both of those groups.  I'd have to do some checking on the reliability of doing that, but you can do that with other tests, I'm not sure why you couldn't do it with this.  It's again, averaging averages but we'd have to figure out someway, regulation wise, to do that and that would...could be a problem.  Again, given...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  But there are so few students that take it.  Frankly, I don't think that we'd find ourselves in that pickle except once in a hundred thousand years.  I just don't it happening.




KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Realistically, it could but...


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  But with the small number of kids taking the SAT, you could have a statewide average that is so high that many schools would fall below on the SAT but not on the ACT.  If that's what you're getting at...


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SENATOR BEUTLER:  That's what I'm asking.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  That would be a potential problem but we'd have ...  and maybe a school could declare which one it's using, you know, or set a minimum qualifying number of students.  I'm not sure.  We'd have to really do some work on that.  I hadn't thought about it in that respect.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Are there only two tests, currently?  That's my last question on that section.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  That's the main ones that you would have enough taking that you could use an averaging system for.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  But there are other standard tests out there?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, there are.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  That some colleges use?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I'm trying to think of the names of some of them that we encounter, particularly when kids go to private universities, we encounter any number of entrance exams that they're asked to take.  There is a ...  a high school level of a GRA, a graduate record exam, that exists that I don't even know if a student's taken that recently but I know it's out there.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  On the Education Innovation Fund, when the amount of the fund according to the amendment is not sufficient to give everybody their money, it's done on a pro rata basis.  Would you think it would ever happen that there was too much money for everybody who is supposed to get?  There'd be money left over in the fund.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I don't think that would ever be the case.  I just don't think that would be the case.  No.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  Thank you.




SENATOR STUHR:  Yes, Commissioner Christensen, I was wondering if you could just give a little explanation on the


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part with high ability, an approved program.  Do you know, I mean, could you just give me...  is it a prog...I mean a class, a?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, we have in the guidelines, that related to the legislation that was passed for identification of students and that if a school has then a..  they don't have to have a program but if they do have one, here's the guidelines they are to follow.  It would be putting those guidelines in place so that schools could do a variety of things, through pull out programs, through compacting curriculum, through accelerated learning, through special classes.  Any variety of things would qualify under that and then we'd have to place some of those things then in the regulations.  I'm not sure exactly how that would work.  We'd have to sit down and do that but that would be the way that we'd go about that.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Beutler


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Senator Suttle, one last question, if I could.  With respect to the amendment which indicates that with respect to systems that have a poverty factor, at least thirty percent of the formula students qualify for the poverty factor.  Then, in that case, it appears that they would be compared to the national average on the examinations taken.  I suppose they could have been compared to the state average with some lower factor indicated.  Is there anything to be said for keeping the comparison to the state and thereby dealing with the same kinds of incentive pressures and factors as opposed to switching over to a national comparison?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  I'll just give you a reaction as an urban resident because that really what you'd be comparing is that, really urban environments have less in common with Nebraska than they do other urban environments when you get into those kind of comparisons.  So that it would make sense to me, from a local board member's perspective, that it would make a lot more sense to go to those national comparisons because there isn't anything comparable in Nebraska to compare those to.


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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Yeah, I...that's a tough one because I think that when you get into this, you have to place the provisions that you re going to use into some kind of regulation if you're going to be fair, consistent, and meet all the administrative procedures and all of that.  And yet to do it by giving them less of a factor in the ...  like a state comparison, then you're inventing a statistical mechanism that may really not be valid at all and so you think about Omaha Public Schools, particularly their ...  if they were to use a peer group of institutions, they would use the Greater ...  Council of Great City Schools group, they would not use Thedford and Mullen and Central City and Harrison and places like that.  So I guess I would agree with Kathleen that I would argue for the national comparison on that basis because any attempt to make a statistical manipulation to the state formula may render it invalid and too arbitrary.  I mean, it may not stand up in court if you got into a court situation.


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  The other concern that I would have, ,too#..  is' just- the message that-, it, sends,, is that it says tht our expectations are lower and I don't think that's the right message.  I think it's fair to say that our expectations are at least those of other urban settings or more.  But I don't...  I think that if you would use a statewide factor, you have all the issues that Doug dealt with, but I think, even more importantly, you'd be saying, we don't think you can do as well so we're not going to compare you that way.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I'm just concerned about the fact that if the ...  if the standard is national and I don't think nationally, in a lot of areas, people put the same focus and attention on the public schools as we do here.  And the change nationally may be glacieral.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Therefore, not encouraging which other schools, well, Omaha, not encouraging Omaha to make the same repetitive Improvement that might be ...  might be incentived if that's a verb...


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  Senator, I've sat on both sides of that question and I've said, that you really, there is a


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truth to the fact that there are no comparables in Nebraska to Omaha.  There just aren't, to that urban environment, that setting of poverty that the bill discusses is absolutely true.  The other side of that is, Omaha better darn well look good when you compare it to Detroit because we don't have those kinds of problem, or L.A., so I also appreciate what you're saying.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Can you tell me, historically, whether Omaha has sometimes, all the time, much of the time, been above the national average?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  It's been above the national average pretty typically.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  So Omaha is always going to qualify for this incentive?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  No, not always.  Not until recently, I mean some of that has changed, but I mean, I would say that, generally, that they're re going to look still more like their comparables, like a Des Moines, like a Minneapolis, like a Topeka.  Those kinds of comparables like you see like in a CIR for instance.  Those are real comparables as opposed to...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Might it...might it be advisable to set a series of comparables as opposed to simply saying, the entire nation?


KATHLEEN McCALLISTER:  If that's a concern, I think it's something that should be discussed.




DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I think it would make more sense to hive a peer group for that.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Any additional questions?  Thank you very much.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  I think the chair had a special Dr.  Mackiel?


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DIANNE WELCH:  I believe that there were two people that requested and then it was open to the public.  That was the instruction that was given at the opening of the hearing.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, let me ...  what is your name?


DIANNE WELCH:  My name is D'Anne Welch and I'll be real brief because I really want to run across the hall.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Do you have ...  do you have some reason for wanting to go first?


DIANNE WELCH:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes, I need to go quickly.  I'll be very brief...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, well, wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  I certainly want to be accommodating, but on the other hand, when a structure is given to me and I don't know the rationale of why that structure is given to me, I assume there is a rationale.  And so,.  unless.  -you-, have some-emergency, there are lots of people who would like to testify and they'll all get a chance to testify and you will get a chance to testify.  But I don't believe it's the role of the any particular citizen to dictate exactly when in the process you will be testifying.


DIANNE WELCH:  Well, then I assume that all of the people that you have on your structure are dictating that because at the beginning of the hearing, Senator Bohlke gave two names that came and were...and those persons came, someone from Thedford and then the Commissioner and the president of the board and then, by some secret message, you all of a sudden came up with the structure and all of us have been waiting.  We've all been waiting.  If there is a different method to got on the structure, then we all have the right to know that method.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, I'm at a disadvantage here cause I don't know the methods used in this particular instance and go, in that case, if you have some demanding reason why you need to go first, then I will take your word for that and you can go.


DIANNE WELCH:  Yes, I do.  And, actually, I've prepared


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something for you to look at.  I won't go through all of this.  Just as instruction though, I made recommendations for changes in the language and it affects structural linguistics and logic.  I think I can help improve the bill.  For example, in Section 1 it begins, "Sections 1 through of this act", whereas you have "Section I to 5".  If you say 1 to 5, you're excluding number 5, just recommendations like that.  But the only one that I wanted to get stated on, for the record, is Section 4 (5) and I want you to note that there is federal law 34 CFR 300 that will be mandating certain things upon the state of Nebraska regarding the assessment of special education children and, as you develop your guidelines, which in the state you plan to have due in the fall of 2000 but the federal government will not require until ...  will require in July of 2000.  So certainly, I'll watch this closely.  The passage of LB 865 last session has problems with federal law and, you know, I want to make sure that any new laws that you create would abide.  Thank, you,




JOHN MACKIEL:  Senator Suttle, and members of the committee, thank you very, very much.  I'm John Mackiel, Superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools and I'm here today to testify on behalf of LB 1228 and certainly in support of the bill which establishes Quality of Education Accountability Act.  I thank you for accommodating.  We have several faculties that are convening in forty-five minutes that we've made a commitment to.  We'd like to commend Senator Bohlke and the twenty-one cosponsors for introducing LB 1228.  The bill recognizes the importance of establishing programs to address the needs of the state's high-ability learners that need to provide ongoing educational programs for expelled students and the importance of encouraging students to take college admission tests and, again, to ensure that they keep all of their options open.  We, in the Omaha Public Schools, support these initiatives.  In addition to the other provisions of LB 1228, such as requiring a financial reporting system that would provide standard data on how school districts spend.  And I might add that it's an extremely useful tool for the administrative and the personnel within the school and can be employed in their day-to-day as well as their annual decision-making process, for adopting the academic standards developed by the state board, and finally, to implement a statewidetesting


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program..  We are appreciative of the fact that LB 1228 is not an unfunded mandate but rather it encourages school districts to adopt its provisions by providing an incentive in a payment approach.  In conclusion, the Omaha Public Schools supports the concepts reflected in LB 1228 and I would be glad to respond to any comments or any questions that you might have.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Doctor, I first of all want to apologize for mispronouncing your name.  I had a different spelling on here.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Other questions?  I guess not.


JOHN MACKIEL:  Appreciate it immensely.  Thank you.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  D'Anne Welch?  She just testified Okay, Mr. Smith.  I think that's the end of persons who had requests.


M.L.  SMITH:  I'm M.L.  Smith, representing the NRCSA association composed of approximately a hundred and ninety rural Nebraska schools.  NRCSA is supportive of the intent of this bill.  Senator Bohlke, with some of her amendments, relieves some of our extreme concerns.  I would suggest that perhaps a criteria for achievement rather than the ACT and the SAT, sometime down the line you look at just the student achievement.  Dealing with a portion of the school financial system, NRCSA strongly supports a position of district and attendance center reporting.  If you have four or five or six or twelve schools in one district, we'd suggest that they have some system that they can send out their message and their cost and people ratios and et cetera as well as a district one.  We would suggest that since a hundred and seventy-two schools in the state of Nebraska now use a computer system called WOS, that exploration and contacts be made with that company discussing the possibility of additional software development that would meet the requirements of this legislation.  Our reasoning being, that to the best of my knowledge, the current programs used by those schools are providing much of this information already.  If it is not providing the needs of the Department of Education, perhaps additional software could be developed


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by WOS or the other systems that may be used throughout the state and would not mandate an entirely new program.  NRCSA has already been supportive of accountability for student achievement.  We're especially please to note, again, that this is not an unfunded mandate since the cost of materials and scoring will be a state obligation.  While I understand there are provisions in the bill to give incentive payments to schools from the Innovation Education Fund, NRCSA respectfully suggest that perhaps in the near future, the accountability for the achievement standards could become a factor in the distribution of a state aid formula.  Entirely for informational purposes, from some of the discussion I heard earlier regarding free and reduced priced lunches, all schools in Nebraska, under 806, with the exception of the very sparse and sparse, are considered in a normal range and are compared against each other in that range now.  The state average for free and reduced price lunches is approximately twenty-five percent of the student population.  So if you're in Odell, approximately twenty-five percent would be considered "normal" and in Omaha twenty-five percent would be considered "normal", any above or below that would be a disparity from the normal in Nebraska and may want to be considered in allocation of funds.  And I'll be happy to answer questions.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Are there questions?  See none.  Thank you.


M.L.  SMITH:  Thank you.  Okay, are there other proponents of the legislation?  Please come forward.


GARY HAMMACK:  Members of the Education Committee, my name is Gary Hammack.  I'm Superintendent of Schools in Kearney, Nebraska.  I'm also current president of the Greater Nebraska Schools Association.  We represent twenty-eight of the Nebraska public school districts which educate more than sixty percent of Nebraska public school students.  I'm here today to support LB 1228 because we support quality education and we believe this bill has the potential to improve quality education in Nebraska.  The Greater Nebraska Schools believe it's time for all schools to adopt the state standards.  We believe it's essential to support high standards for our schools and encourage equity throughout Nebraska.  The Greater Nebraska Schools support alternative education schools.  Our districts have been leaders in the


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creation and utilization of these schools for students who, need a different school setting to be educationally successful.  We have personally witnessed the value of these educational programs.  Last year, five members of the Kearney High School graduating class of 1997 graduated through our Education Opportunity Center, alternative education' opportunity.  Our GNSA schools have been leaders in developing and offering programs for learners with high ability.  We recognize the importance of these students to be appropriately challenged and awarded.  We also recognize because high-ability students lack funding, that they oftentimes do not receive the same consideration for the budget dollar.  Additionally, we support vigorous and rigorous standardized testing program to challenge.  our students and our schools to achieve all that is possible and to encourage our students to be competitive with the best from other schools in our country and worldwide.  Typically, GNSA schools have scored very well on ACT and SAT scores.  Additionally, we believe that clear, consistent financial reporting from district to district will, help our patrons' provide input necessary -and appropriate for local financial decision making.  And the believe that the utilization of lottery funds to encourage these initiatives is consistent with the use of these funds to promote quality, innovation, and school improvement.  Legislative Bill 1228 continues this tradition.  We believe the GNSA schools have been educational leaders for many years.  We have promoted quality education in many ways.  Oftentimes we define quality education as educational opportunity and if the opportunity does not exist then that quality opportunity is lost.  Our GNSA members voted unanimously to support LB 1228 and I am here today to express that support.  Are there any questions?  (Exhibit B)


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Senator Suttle has returned so I'll turn it back over to you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Okay.  Thank you very much.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I should mention to you that Aaron from NCSA, I neglected to give him an opportunity to testify.  I think he has a conflict, too, so I might apprise you of that.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Okay.  Thank you, sir, very much.  Are


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there any questions?




SENATOR STUHR:  Talking about the poverty factor, I was wondering if you have any idea what percentage of students in the Greater Nebraska Schools or your school, particularly, fall in there, percentage range?


GARY HAMMACK:  Well, I think we really do a nice job of representing Nebraska because we have Lexington, probably has at least a potential for the greatest poverty factor in outstate Nebraska, for sure, and Omaha that certainly does on the eastern side.  Then we have school districts that are fairly removed from the poverty factor actor through a variety of different reasons.  So, consequently, we represent people all across the spectrum in terms of the poverty factor.


SENATOR STUHR:  I guess more specifically, I was wondering the percentage.  The amendment states thirty percent of the students.


GARY HAMMACK:  We would have...  some schools that would easily trigger than amount.  I'm thinking of Lexington and Omaha; and then we have some schools that would never come close to that, such a Kearney, probably Hastings.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Any other questions?  Thank you, sir, very much.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  Will the representative from the NCSA please come up?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Thank you.  My name is Aaron Eairleywine.  I'm the Director of Business for the Grand Island Public Schools and I'm here today to speak on behalf of the Legislative Committee for the NCSA.  I serve as chairman of that committee.  I'd like to thank the committee for giving us this opportunity.  Providing a basic well-defined criteria and setting measurable goals and rewarding those who achieve those goals are very positive


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steps for education.  The NCSA recognizes that this is only the first of many steps but we are anxious to be a part of this ongoing process.  Setting a goal for test scores to be above the state average will cause all of the districts in the state to work harder.  Many districts in the state will meet those requirements to receive the quality incentive payments.  But those districts will soon realize that as the other districts work to meet the standard, that standard itself will be raised and the rest of us will have to work harder.  The NCSA urges you to make the rewards as significant as possible.  The language describing the quality incentive payments received by the qualifying districts should be carefully constructed.  If the receipt is viewed for reporting purposes, as an accountable receipt for state aid, it will cause the district's state aid to be reduced by the same amount that that district would receive as a quality incentive payment.  The NCSA asks that the language be very clear on this issue and we understand that that is the intent of the legislation.  The quality incentive payments should truly be incentives.  The NCSA would recommend- amending Section 3 (1) to cause the State Department of Education to modify the current accounting and reporting system to reflect the reporting criteria described in that section and approved by the State Board of Education.  The present accounting and budgeting system, with modification and clarification, can do the same thing as an overlaying model.  The NCSA would recommend not imposing another layer of accounting or reporting on top of what we already have.  It will be more efficient and effective to make modifications in the present system.  On that basis, the NCSA recommends the amendment.  The NCSA supports LB 1228 with the suggestions made and the one amendment that we've outlined.  I'll be happy to respond to questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions for Mr. Eairleywine?  Seeing none, thank you very...I'm sorry.  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  When you're describing the existing system, what existing system are you talking about?  it's always been my impression that there are a variety of systems.  Someone testified about WOS, I think there's another major accounting system that's in use.


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Those are ...  those are different pieces


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of software.  When we report to the state, there are defined accounting codes that we use in our reporting mechanism on the APR, the Annual Financial Report.




AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  And it's those accounting codes, that with clarification, could be used to engender the same information that an overlay ...  for example, Mrs.  McCallister talked about staff development.  In Grand Island, we had...  I have in my budget accounting code, I have fifty-three hundred lines of code.  If I don't have, in those fifty-three hundred lines, things earmarked for staff development, no overlaying model will pick up any staff development.  All the information has to be in the current accounting system for any overlaying system to pick it up.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Do you think the current accounting system, and I think I described it earlier as a pigeonholing system.  I hope that wasn't offensive to you but...


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Oh, no, not...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  but the current accounting or pigeonholding system is adequate to provide us with comparable data from schools all across Nebraska?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  The system is.  The issue becomes, where do I as a business official, categorize something versus someone down the road a hundred miles.  And I don't think there's a great disparity there.




AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  We're going to differ a little bit but.  I don't think there's any broad disparity where we're going TO see major differences.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  So is part of the task then to use the existing data to produce the reports that people want?  Is that the way you see it?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  All of the things that I have seen from the overlay models that I have reviewed, the accounting system that we use in Grand Island, can reproduce those


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reports.  We may not call, Office of the Principal, school district leadership, we may call it office of the principal.  So in that sense, our terminology may have to be adjusted if that's what, indeed, is more understandable, is just how we term things.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay, and what system do you use?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  We have a system of software called CIMS, C-i-m-s.  Please don't ask me what that stands for.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay, well, it's something other than WOS, isn't it?






AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Yes, and again, all that is, is just a database, you put your information in and it has certain features built into it, certain reports built into it:  that you can use or modify.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Is it expandable?  If you...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  add additional categories or pigeonholes or?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  We ...  we have...  I believe I'm correct that in that particular piece of software, my account number can have fifty characters.  And you can group them.  Ours is made up, I think, fifteen, and we have five sub-groups Pad you can do reports within each of those sub-groups.  I mean, I can give you a breakout ...  they talked about mathematics...or how much do you spend on mathematics.  We tan do that in Grand Island.  All your larger districts can pull out for you how much you're spending on mathematics.  Some can pull out how much they're spending on calculus.  We can't, we just have math.  We can just break it down by math.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  But if you coded it, went the extra step and extra coding, you'd be able to tell...


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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  how much you spend on calculus.


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Certainly.  Certainly.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  AM:  Just no one has asked you to do that yet.


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  That's correct.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  okay.  Can you...can you use that system to ...  do you have any means of using that system to file the actual reports that are used by the State Department of Education as a program to do that?  Someone mentioned ...  oh, you mentioned it, and AFR?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  The Annual Financial Report.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  Can ...  does your accounting system produce that report for you?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  We have ...  there's a piece of our software allows us to create reports and we create the report and then we take numbers from a computer printout to complete the AFR.  Yeah, it doesn't ...  the formats not exactly ...  you can't send our report in but we generate the numbers so we can merely transfer it to the AFR.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Willhoft.


SENATOR WILLHOFT:  I had one question.  Do you see that in the current accounting system and in that coding that ...  that as things develop, administrators or managers would purposely code things that would look better to their system or would that be picked up in audits and so forth?


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Well, in the normal routine of an audit, they do certain sampling techniques and certain expenditures would be examined and the auditor may well have a question.  This appears to be an equipment purchase and not textbooks, why is it in the textbook account?  I don't think very much


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of-that goes on at all.  But there is always the issue that the auditors do, In fact, do sampling and they do, in fact, look at individual bills and they could very easily pick up on something like that.


SENATOR WILLHOFT:  I asked that question because I had had a superintendent that said, oh, with that coding, we just put it in a different item, you know, and ...


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Well, they should ...  well...


SENATOR WILLHOFT:  So that's what triggered that question.




SENATOR WILLHOFT:  Not anything....


AARON EAIRLEYWINE:  Hopefully, that's done on ...  by just a very small percentage, hopefully.


SENATOR, SUTTLE:  Any- other.  questions?  I don't see any.  Thank you very much.




AL INZERELLO:  Senator Suttle, members of the committee, I'm Al Inzerello, Assistant Superintendent for West Side Community Schools.  And I'd like to first again, thank Senator Bohlke and the committee for bringing this legislation forward.  We support this legislation.  I'd like to comment and I brought a couple of examples of things that, hopefully, support the notion that this is a work in progress; and hopefully, this bill will be the result of testimony concerned and more discussion be enhanced.  The four key areas in terms of qualifying criteria, the first one being, adopting academic standards.  If you're talking about quality, I would suggest that you look at language that talks about meeting or exceeding a standard, not to just adopt.  Meeting or exceeding is language that causes people to go beyond.  The alternative school is certainly something that is a notion of quality.  In the first book I gave you, Quality In Innovative Programs and this is Westside Community Schools.  This is just our attempt, as an example of the kinds of things that this bill is trying to focus on.  We've put together, and we call these white


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papers, where we've identified just twenty programs of either innovation or something that could be considered a little different for our district.  This is just local, this is what we and our board have determined are quality initiatives in our district.  And we've not only titled them, we've given a rationale for them; we've given an explanation of what we need, very specifically, by class size; and we also provide the financial data that Senator Bohlke was talking about.  What does it cost?  What does it cost the school district?  This is the kind of information that makes sense to our patrons and makes sense to our board.  We're breaking it out under items that we have defined, at a local level, to be of quality.  I'd give this for just your ...  or submit this for your review.  With regard to the reporting which has already been discussed, Coopers-Lybrand, whatever.  On page 30, excuse me, page 29 of the document entitled, The Community United -1997-98 Budget.  This is a document that we developed three years ago.  As the financial director in our district, I'm responsible for updating this each year.  We not only put all our budget numbers together in a-traditional way, which some folks in our community really understand.  They want to see the budget dollars in total.  They want to see the differences compared to the year before and the year before ,that.  They want to see a levy history, a budget history, an expenditure history by fund.  They want to know how much is in the general fund for operations.  They want to know how much is spent for building.  They want to know how much is for asbestos.  But there also is the part of the community that wants to know, as described on page 29, 30, and 31, break it into instruction.  And what does that mean?  Instructional support and what does that mean?  Operations and what does that mean?  Other commitments and how does Westside define them.  Leadership and what's included in leadership.  I'm not sure, contrary to some previous testimony, if folks want to know how much is spent in mathematics or calculus.  But I think they want to know how much is spent in instruction and what that instruction includes.  Yes, it includes textbooks.  Yes, it includes teachers.  Yes, it includes teacher aides.  Yes, it includes A,B,C,D.  So, it is ...  in defining quality, okay, and what things cost, it very well needs to be reported both ways.  And I just offer that as consideration.  The dollars, the levies, the valuation, those numbers, but also it needs to be broken down a different way.  And I don't know if


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Coopers-Lybrand is the answer.  I'm suggesting that will take more discussion and I'm suggesting, if we're really trying to be definitive in a way that our public can understand and evaluate, needs to be discussed a little further.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions for Mr. Inzerello?  Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I'm just sort of thinking out loud.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  In what respect ...  you folks came back on this subsection (d) and the criteria for the payment.  The number of graduating seniors who have taken a standard admissions test and requiring them to have an average above the statewide average.  Do you think ...  what, if anything, should we say with regard to those school districts that voted to exceed the levy limit and those that have not, vis-a-vis this criteria?


AL INZERELLO:  Well, if you're already there, I would just raise the question, what's here that causes you to go beyond this?  And that, again coming back to the earlier comment of incentives.  I mean, my suggestion is, all school districts that are...that are spending dollars beyond what the Legislature has basically defined through formula what school school districts should spend.  Okay, those school districts that have chosen to spend beyond that, have already defined quality indicators other than what you see here and I'm looking at the class size, teacher experience, advanced degrees, extended calendar, more time in school, higher salaries for teachers because they spend more time, staff development, increased training, intensive training and retraining for teachers.  All those kinds of things are general fund expenditures that cause a school system or district to go beyond what they can generate through a dollar-ten together with state aid.  I don't know, did help, Senator?


SENATOR BEUTLER:  It didn't help but I'm not sure if...




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SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  because I wasn't listening closely enough.


AL INZERELLO:  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Let me ask it a different way.  Let me ask it a different way.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  If my school district votes to exceed the levy limits...




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Should they also be able to qualify for...


AL INZERELLO:  Oh, yes.  And in my opinion...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  quality education?


AL INZERELLO:  Yes, very definitely.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Very definitely?


AL INZERELLO:  Very definitely.  Cause they're already expending money in the general fund that has put them beyond those limits.  This is an incentive for notions of quality, it is.  We're not talking about equalization dollars here that you would qualify, based on "need".  This is ...  these are dollars that will cause a school system and to say, what can we do to take us where we aren't now?  Or how can we validate our success?


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions?  Thank you...


AL INZERELLO:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  ...  very much.  It is ten minutes after three.  I realize everyone has a lot to say but if you could make it within three minutes, it would be very appreciated.  We still have six more bills after this.  Go ahead.


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DAVID HANOLD:  Thank you.  Good afternoon, Senator Suttle and committee, my name is David Hanold, it's spelled, H-a-n-o-l-d, and here to testify on behalf of Omaha 2000.  I've served on the steering committee of Omaha 2000 since its inception and am co-chair of Omaha 2000's Finance Committee along with Joel Vanderveen.  In addition, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce has reviewed and endorsed what I'm going to read today.  Thank you for this opportunity to speak out in support of LB 1228 and, particularly, Section 3 which calls for the comprehensive financial reporting system.  Over the past few years, Joel Vanderveen and I have had a number of opportunities to speak in support of improved financial reporting systems to school administrators, school boards, and other interested parties.  In the cases where these systems have been implemented, they have proven themselves to be valuable tools for managing school district finance and for communicating with the public.  In management terms, by incorporating one hundred percent of district expenditures, a comprehensive financial reporting system provides a clearer snapshot of the total resources expended for education than existing regulatory reports.  The ability to translate a school district's aggregate numbers into more detailed breakdowns by school site and/or other criteria, permits the district's board to see whether their policy priorities are being addressed and assists administrators in developing their budgets.  Over time, such a system provides valuable benchmarks that help districts improve from year to year and as well and as from district to district.  In terms of improving communication, the consistent terminology and comprehensiveness of such a system permits more constructive dialogue among all the interested parties regarding the on-going issues of school finance.  Words will have precise meanings in the context of the system and discussions can go forward on an apples-to-apples basis.  And the fact that one hundred percent of funds expended in a district will be recognized in the reports will give them greater creditability.  Furthermore, schools boards and administrators will be able to demonstrate how their priorities are being implemented.  Improving the quality of dialogue on school finance in certainly worthwhile and even if that was all we aspired to do; however, the financing dialogue of only half of the overall issues.  We are also interested in what we get for the money we spend and I think that when the benefits of Section 3 are paired with the


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benefits of Section 4's testing program, expenditures and educational performance can be studied and discussed with credible objective and factual underpinnings.  Educators will be able to clearly demonstrate what they accomplished and how they do it.  Parents and taxpayers will have more confidence in, and I think, appreciation for what happens in our schools.  Similar reporting systems have been implemented statewide in South Carolina and in Rhode Island.  We would like Nebraska to take this positive step forward, as well.  And we can show how highly we value the role that public education plays in Nebraska by making what we do more understandable.  Thank you for this chance to testify in support of LB 1228.  And if you guys will be brief with your questions, I'll be brief with my answers.  (laughter)


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Mr. Hanold.  Any questions?  I don't see any.  Thank you very much.


DAVID HANOLD:  Thank you. 


PHIL SCHOO:  Senator Bohlke, members of the committee, I'm Phil School, the Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools and I'll be very brief.  I'd like to go on record, as Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, to support LB 1228.  My colleagues have testified with detail, prior to me, so I'd be prepared to answer any questions that you have, otherwise, I'm finished.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.  Any questions?  Seeing none, thank you.  You get the prize, so far.  See if Mr. Dale does as well.


CLIFF DALE:  Senator Suttle, members of the committee, my leader has set an example for me.  I have...  I have copies of what I ...  what's intended to say, but won't.  I really talk about the financial part, the financial reporting part, to say that...


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Would you identify yourself for the record?


CLIFF DALE:  Oh, I'm sorry, I'm Cliff Dale, Associate Superintendent for Business of the Lincoln Public Schools.  Just a couple of items about the accounting portion.  (Exhibit D) Nebraska's on...or Nebraska school districts are on a modified cash basis.  We have not adopted what's


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called GAAP, which are Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.  I think that adoption was voted down a couple of years ago.  I would support that a reporting package is merely an overlay and I think that's been said.  In fact, it's been elicited by questions from Senator Wickersham.  But I would really recommend that the efforts of the state and, I think, it could be done under this act, would be to go in and look at the basic accounting systems.  There are standards there.  Any reporting package is just a reporting package.  It will get you information on a patch, on a quick subset, but it differs.  It also means that if you're in ...  in basic accounting principles in the dialogue we have with the business community, we're using the same terms.  When we talk to a Moody's and Standard and Poor's every year, every time we have to explain the difference with our modified cash referral system so I would just tell you that I believe ...  and also, we're talking an adoption here that's very expensive, easily over a million dollars if you buy a package ,, and try., and try , to install, it and -have.  all six hundred districts get on that system.  I believe the basic way is to start with the accounting handbook and the accounting rules that the State Department of Education puts out.  Begin there, determine what the information should be, and develop what you want.  What do we report?  I get far more questions about, not what you spend, but why you spend it.  I get far more questions about the complexity of the state aid system than I do about the complexity of our budget.  So, I think, with that, that would be my comments.  I'd be happy to respond to any questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions?  Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  What percentage of the time in the last...what ...  how many times in the last ten years have the aggregate average scores of the Lincoln seniors exceeded standard college admission tests, the statewide average?


CLIFF DALE:  I have no idea.  But I have a current junior I'll worry about.  I don't know that question.  I would presume that they're above the statewide average every year, Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Can I be supplied with that information?




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SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions?  Thank you.


JIM GRIESS:  Senator Suttle, members of the committee, I'm Jim Griess, I represent the Nebraska State Education Association, appearing here in support of 1228.  I'm not going to go into any of the details of the bill.  You've heard ample testimony on that.  The only question that we have about this bill and, as it relates to LB 1336, is that both seem to indicate that each of them has first priority on lottery money.  We'll be appearing in favor of 1336 as well and it would be our preference that 1336 have priority over 1228 in terms of lottery money but we support all of the concepts contained in 1228.  Thank you.


SENATOR; SUTTLE:  -Thank- you.  Any questions -for Mr. Griess?  Seeing none, thank you very much, sir.


JEF JOHNSTON:  Good afternoon.  I'm Jef Johnston with the Gretna Public Schools and I'm the Assistant Superintendent there and serve the responsibility of curriculum and instruction and staff development and this afternoon, I'd like to talk about the testing portion of the bill.  We are also in support of that bill but I am giving you some information about the nature of testing.  (Exhibit E) This is ...  the nature of testing is not pro or against LB 1228 but I think I want to point some things that I think would enhance what 1228 intends to do.  That information comes from the Nebraska Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.  I'm using it as literature, I'm not necessarily speaking on their behalf.  On Section 4 (2), you're talking about statewide testing program and 3n line 16, it talks about, "The purpose of the testing program is to ensure school accountability for student achievement and to measure individual student progress toward academic standards".  A second part says, "The test shall be designed to compare achievement of students ...  and enable teachers to evaluate the academic performance." What I'm suggesting is that those are two different purposes of testing and those two purposes cannot be accomplished with a.  single achievement test.  And I would encourage you to look at other forms of assessing student learning.  In the brochure you'll notice some information about norm reference testing


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and I believe that's the kind of testing we're talking about in this bill when we're talking about testing companies and what they do.  What they do is compare scores and, generally, they can convert raw scores to percentile scores.  It's a comparison and they do that very efficiently.  What they do not do is measure individual growth.  Those tests don't tell us what students will learn, nor do those tests tell us how students learn.  They tell us how they rank from the ninety-nine percentile to the first percentile.  And I want to illustrate it in two ways.  First, I brought a science book ...  biology book.  You probably use it in high schools that you represent, or something very similar.  There's less than a handful of companies that publish these things.  In Gretna, we use this textbook, but one of goals in science, one of our standards if you will, is not just to read about science.  We want students to experience science, we want them to conduct labs, we want them to carry out the scientific method and feel like it's very important for kids to do those hands-on kinds of experiences.  We think they need to interpret data.  We've invested heavily in technology and we think kids need to be able to search the Internet to look for scientific methods and ...  and answers to scientific questions.  If we take that information, plus the material that we develop, plus some of the technology we use, really when you're looking at it, you're talking about a volume of information, about like that, above that book, the six-hundred-page book, with all the other stuff we do.  Now, a norm-referenced achievement test is going to narrow all that down to multiple-choice questions and the average you'll find on most achievement tests is about thirty questions.  So we've gone from a year course, six-hundred-page text, lab assignments, hand-on activities, Internet searches to thirty multiple-choice questions.  My concern is that that doesn't represent learning.  It doesn't tell us what kids learn, it doesn't tell how kids learn.  But it's a very efficient way to rank them.  The only thing that we need to remember is that we're ranking them on the multiple-choice content.  And testing company A will have different content than testing company B which will be different than testing company C and none of it will be what we do in Gretna.  And so, my comments to you are, while we are in favor of 1228, we would like you to look at ranking schools and use more than norm reference test information.  I'm not against norm referenced tests, we use them.  There's some very good ones out there but they represent about this


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much of what we want to know about student achievement.  You make a reference in here to writing testing which is really a criterion-reference test.  And in the brochure it will talk about criterion-reference tests.  Those are the kinds of tests you want to use to measure student growth.  Those tell you what kids do.  The criterion-reference measure might have a kid carry out a lab experiment, might have a kid demonstrate the scientific method.  Now you're doing that in writing and we can do that in writing.  Again a far different thing to have the student actually write and compare the standards of criterion, how will they meet those things; than it is to having them answer multiple-choice questions about writing.  Very distinct differences, and I think, while I'm not opposed at all to ranking schools, I'm very proud of what we do.  I want you to look at all of what we do, not just the multiple-choice tests.  And so I encourage you to read that information and I'll end but accept questions if you have any.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions for Mr. Johnston?  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Yes, in terms of practical suggestions for this, you mentioned having kids do things in a test, rather than respond to a multiple-choice question.  I guess the other situation I wonder if it needs to be addressed, if you have a student that comes into a school system, say at a very high level of performance in a particular subject, and goes out some time later, or takes a test sometime later, again at a very high level but no higher than where he came in, how do you pick that up?  Is that something you try to catch in a...


JEF JOHNSTON:  I think the only way you pick up where a student ...  what a student knows, that's what classroom teachers do.  They work with kids every day.  Ninety percent of what of we do with testing is done at the classroom level.  I guess I'd much rather see us spending money improving our classroom assessments and improving our criterion-reference assessments rather than doing the same kind of norm-reference testing we've been doing for seventy years in education.  So I think the answer, if you really want to know what a kid can do, you sit down with him, and teachers.  work with him to find out.  You know, there's ...  teaching isn't just the sciences and art, too, and


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they need to find out from kids what they can do.  But that has to be done at the classroom level, that's not done very well on a standardized achievement test.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions?  Thank you# Mr. Johnston.  How many more will be testifying as proponents to this bill?  Okey-dokey.


DONNA FLOOD:  Good afternoon, Senator Bohlke and Senator Suttle, esteemed Senators, and guests in this chambers.  My name is Donna Flood, I'm here from ESU #3 in Omaha, and I'm here to raise your awareness of a writing assessment system, a direct writing assessment system that's been developed at ESU #3.  1 brought a copy with me today if, indeed, any of you are interesting in perusing it at a later time.  (Exhibit F) I'll just speak very briefly about what the writing' assessment system has done in our area and a few, other areas in the state.  In response to Rule 10 in the early nineties, we developed the writing assessment system.  It has all the component parts that are necessary to conduct large-scale assessments.  This specifically was designed for Grades 5-8 and 11-12, Fall and Spring, and also it has specific modes of writing that are assessed.  The system includes prompts; it includes surveys to assess student understanding of the writing process and their attitudes about writing; it includes range-finder papers, for instance; it includes scoring guides; rubrics; documentation on administration of the test; and it has been adapted and adopted in many, many ways in the metropolitan area but, as I said, outstate as well.  Because of the system and the adoption by many school districts, it became necessary for us to start what we call the Writing Assessment Service.  And that at the time when school districts contract with us to have their students write in those specific grade levels, the papers are collected, brought to our central location, and scored according to the criteria that have been preestablished.  This is the criterion-reference test.  And it has proven invaluable for school districts in a school improvement processes, for instance.  Very often I've seen, for instance, a school district apply for some lottery funds and they want to ...  they have a goal, for instance, of improving student written expressions.  I've seen it used in many., many ways beyond just fulfilling accreditation


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requirements.  The best, and the heart and soul of this system, is that, indeed, yes, we can find out how our students are writing.  What is the mean score and the criteria that supports that mean score, but the very best part of this system is that we have a whole staff development component that came along in the mid-nineties and supports how to get better.  Not only, do we sit there and, yes, we know our baseline; we know how we're progressing over time.  We don't just wring our hands about how we are doing.  We can bring on the staff development component, train teachers, but in times, train students and set goals to improve.  That's absolutely the strength of the system, that, yes, we are monitoring student progress but we're able to make a difference.  We're able to set goals .and get better because writing is a very hard thing to do.  I would be happy to talk to you, entertain questions now, or talk to you privately about the Writing Assessment System.  As I said, the work in either of the regular assessments, classroom assessment, or in large scale.  I indicated a number of the places where this training has gone on in this state, I it's not particularly in ESU #3.  If you have any questions, I'd be happy to address them.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Mrs.  Flood.  We have been briefed on this prior and it is a very good tool to use, I believe.  Are there any question for Mrs.  Flood?  I don't see any.  Thank you very much.  Ms.  Richards will be the last one for proponents.  Are there any opponents?  Okey-dokey.  Any neutral?  Okay.


LINDA RICHARDS:  Senator Suttle, thank you, and members of the committee.  I will, again, as other speakers, be brief.  I do rise in support of 1228.  My name is Linda Richards and I am a board member from Ralston Public Schools.  I will, again, outline the importance of this Section 3 of this bill which is the financial reporting and accountability.  This serves as a management tool for board members and, as a board of education member, in the last few years it has become growingly important for me, as a board of education member, a policy maker in this state, to have information that I need in order to make sound decisions as a board member.  Growing concerns in our district are financial concerns as they are across this state and I think that I can speak on behalf, I would like to speak on behalf of all the board members across the state in saying, thank you for


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providing legislation that does something that we haven't had in a long time and that is, enables boards of education across the state to be in charge of themselves and to have control over how we report to our communities and how effectively we can provide information.  The one component that I would outline for you is that this legislation will enable me as a board member, not only to communicate with my community, my staff, and my students; but will also enable me to communicate with other board of education members.  And that's something that has become very important to our district, Ralston, and it grows in importance to metropolitan-area districts, and rural districts across the state.  We have to communicate with one another.  We have to share ideas and thoughts.  This tool will enable us to compare apples to apples and share those apples as well.  So, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of this bill and would entertain any questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions for Ms.  Richards?  -Thank you very much.






ROSS TEGELER:  I have a handout as well, if you would, please.  (Exhibit G) Thank you very much.  Senator Suttle, and Senator Bohlke, and members of the Education Committee, my name is Ross Tegeler, and I appreciate the opportunity to bring testimony from the Excellence in Education Council to this hearing on LB 1228.  1 am the chair of the Excellence in Education Council, the body created by the Legislature to administer the Education Innovation Fund.  The Excellence in Education Council is opposed to LB 1228 as it is currently written.  This opposition reflects, really, the basic principles that were adopted by the Council over a year ago to serve as a guide to our responses to proposed legislation that would impact on the mission of the Council.  There principles are:  (1) the funds should be utilized to encourage innovation; (2) the funds should be considered as research and development resources for education in Nebraska; (3) the funds should be support local school improvement planning and the implementation of those local plans; and (4) the funds should be distributed through the grant application process as initially prescribed by the


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Legislature.  With this background, we want you to know that our opposition to 1228 is not...pardon me, is based totally totally on lines 23 and 24 of page 1 which states that, "Quality education incentive payments shall be made from the Education Innovation Fund..." We have not received a copy of the fiscal note on LB 1228, but if we were to do a simple estimate of the number of students who might be attending schools that would meet the criteria for the payments, the total of the payments could well be over seven million, five hundred thousand dollars per year with, as we understand the bill, those payments being continued into unknown numbers of future years.  Inasmuch as the total receipts into the Education Innovation Fund have, been approximately ten million dollars per year, the impact on the existing mission of the program is obvious.  We are also aware that a number of other bills before this session of the Legislature would also seek to utilize resources from the Education Innovation Fund.  In fact, the aggregate of the proposals to reallocate funds from the Education Innovation Fund far exceed the receipts to that fund.  Why should the Education Innovation ....  Fund continue to be' 'utilized within its mission?  I First point, the current programs support local planning by local school districts.  Very important.  Secondly, the current programs permit local school districts to try new techniques or materials that may enhance teaching and learning.  Third point, the current programs identify successful educational practices and disseminate details of those practices to other school districts, allowing those districts to benefit from the successes and, frankly, the failures of the funded projects.  Examples of these are:  The benefits of collaborative and consortia-based approaches to providing education (e.g., distance learning projects) of which we have funded several.  The importance of clear learning objectives in the design of effective, measurable learning activities for students (e.g., the Fairbury project designed to enhance student success through concentration on language arts and communication skills).  The third example, the successful application of major research in teaching strategies that are more effective with all students (e.g., Park Middle School in Lincoln project that utilizes multiple intelligence research results to guide a restructure of teaching strategies.) And a fourth example, successful methods of delivery of instruction to students (e.g., Arlington Public Schools project that focused on development of essential skills through problem solving, engaged


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learning, use of technology, and involvement of the community and Wayne Public Schools project focused specifically on increasing student success in mathematics.) A fourth example, the current program permits the necessary concentration of sufficient resources to school districts to permit the development of quality projects that will produce results valuable to that district as well as to other districts.  In closing, I want to repeat that our opposition to LB 1228 is entirely directed toward the proposed source of funds.  We believe a function as critical as education needs support for research and development.  At this time, Education Innovation Funds represent the only state-level support to educational research and development.  With all the stresses currently confronting education, it is prudent for us to maintain this modest investment in finding ways to be more efficient and more effective.  Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this hearing.  I will be happy to entertain any questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Mr. Tegeler.  For your information,.  we do have a fiscal note and it's not nearly, as high as you anticipate.  For instance, in FY 98-99 we have a total of two million, six hundred, two-point six million so I think that will be a much more manageable fiscal note than seven point five.


ROSS TEGELER:  And ...  and I'm glad for the information.  I would simply say that, at some point in time...  I guess my biggest concern, we're certainly not opposed to quality education.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Oh, I ...  we assume that.


ROSS TEGELER:  And, in fact, we take great pride in the fact that we think that we have been leaders in Nebraska in helping to maintain and sustain and enhance quality education in Nebraska; but, you know, we've also tried to be accommodating.  Concerns expressed in the testimony of LB 118 last year gave us the opportunity to respond, and I think we've done so in a prompt and thoughtful and responsible fashion but, three, or four, or five years down the road, my concern, frankly, is that everyone will have come in with a very good case and everyone will be receiving funds from the Education Innovation Fund and there will be no money left to do the kinds of things we were initially


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charged to do.  That's my major concern.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Okay.  Thank you.  Any questions from the committee?  Seeing none, thank you.


ROSS TEGELER:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other opposition?  Mr. Rockey, you're neutral?


BRIAN ROCKEY:  Yes, I also have these to pass out.  There's three different pieces.  Senator Bohlke and members of the committee and thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon.  I'm Brian Rockey..  I'm the public information officer for the Nebraska Lottery.  (Exhibits H, I, J, K) There are a number of handouts making the rounds.  The white sheets the distribution of lottery proceeds and the money that we raised for the four funds prescribed in the legislation which created the lottery in 1993.  Through mid-December of 1997, our sales were approximately three hundred- and sixteen million dollars total to date', resulting in approximately eighty-three million dollars raised for the beneficiary trust funds, of that forty-one million was raised to date for the Education Innovation Fund.  We make transfers of proceeds quarterly to the trust funds .  The current distribution is according to the original statue, forty-nine point five percent of those monies are transferred to the Excellence in Education Fund, or the Education Innovation Fund; forty-nine point five percent is transferred to the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund; and one percent is transferred to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.  Prior to July 1, 1997, the Environmental Trust Fund money had been split evenly with the Solid Waste Landfill Closure Assistance Fund.  Now, as you know, we don't have any Involvement in the distribution of the money .  We do get questions, occasionally, in how those funds are spent and so the other handouts that are making the rounds, the green sheets, are examples of grants that we have profiled for the benefit of our customers and our retailers as well as the media and anyone else that has an interest.  Specific questions about projects, how they distributed are best directed to the trust funds.  If you do have questions in general about how we operate or any questions related to that, I'd be happy to try to answer them.


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SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Mr. Rockey.  Any questions for ...  from the committee?  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Yeah, a question about trends in your receipts.  I see that you, like, hit a quarterly peak in June of 1995.  I believe, and receipts have been trending downward since then.  Is it your forecast that they will continue to go down?


BRIAN ROCKEY:  Not necessarily.  It's not uncommon for a lottery to have a sophomore slump after it's second year or third year, for example.  I think when the original legislation was discussed in 1992-93, we projected sales at sixty million a year so we've still been able to exceed that.  There are a number of factors that affect that and a lot of it has to do with what's going on, for example, with, for example the powerball jackpot.  The larger that is, that will spur sales and, over the last couple of years, the jackpot has been hit more frequently so that would affect lotto sales.  There was also a trend, a downward trend, over the last couple years in lotto sales nationwide'.' 'And a lot of that is related to the jackpot and just the length of time that a given game would be on the market.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay.  Thank you.






BRIAN ROCKEY:  I should mention that this is offered as neutral testimony and we also would offer the same testimony as neutral on 1336.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Mr. Rockey.


BRIAN ROCKEY:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Bohlke, do you want to close?  And while she's coming up, I misspoke and read the wrong column.  Okay, if you can if you can correct on the record, what I screwed up.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Members, thank you for your patience.  I


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had met Mr. Brown who you heard testify from Thedford and he is the only person that I had really asked to come in specifically and testify.  But I think the number of testifiers that you heard from is an indication of the number of areas the bill touches and so, although we spent a great deal of time, we may also rationalize it by thinking it's really three bills in one.  So, it's....


SENATOR SUTTLE:  It was still a long time, Senator Bohlke.  (laughter)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And I would point out that as I sat here and observed, it was not the testifiers.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  That's true.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  But, I think the discussion we had was really important and I think some real key points from the committee, actually in the areas that they touched upon, were very good points to be brought up and I look forward to the discussion in committee.  There are just a- couple of" things, in closing, I would like to say.  One of the more recent testimonies certainly was the representative who talked about the testing in norm versus criterion.  And all those of you who were on our interim study group know that we did talk and spend a great deal of time talking to testing companies who were coming forward who may be considered by the State Board of Education as the test that they are doing and even one that has been mentioned as one of the tests they are looking at in Iowa.  All of them said, they now include a criterion in the norm reference test.  They have stopped doing the multiple choice, old-fashioned ...  no, they haven't stopped doing it but, I mean, more schools are moving towards a test that combines both, and most of them have a writing assessment.  Now, when you do that, you increase the cost of the test.  You just want to do what used to be the old norm reference test, you can do that for five dollars a student.  If you move to the new combination, we're more at fifteen dollars a student and that's what we tried to indicate to you, anticipating that would be the direction Nebraska would go on the fiscal note, also.  The writing component would be included from some of those testing companies in the fifteen dollar range.  However, you've heard that we have one available at our ...  from...developed within the state of Nebraska.  I


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asked what the cost of that is and that's really two dollars per student.  So, it may not even be as high as fifteen, depending on what the state board may do.  But certainly, I do not think there's an intention to strictly norm referenced testing so I wanted to clarify that.  And, that ...  that argument often reminds me of the way ...  someone, although I'm hesitant to mention the debate between whole language and phonics.  We have heard criterion reference and norm reference and both have very good points.  What I've said with whole language and phonics is we need a combination, I also think it's true in the testing area.  When I opened, I did not mention and I'm you can read, that it is fifty dollars per student that a district would receive.  We had someone here from Grand Island, that would give you an idea, Grand Island school system would be about three hundred and fifty-thousand dollars.  Thedford, Mr. Brown, his school at one hundred dollars for a very sparse school district, would receive fourteen thousand but Arthur, their neighbor, would get ten thou ' sand, and I'm not quite sure what Tryon would receive, probably in the neighborhood of Arthur.  What they had indicated-to me,-, is that they would look forward to combining that money and being able to do something exciting in sharing in an opportunity to bring some new program to that area.  I had also heard from a superintendent in schools, from a superintendent of schools in Benkelman who they are looking to do the same time of thing.  So, although, it's a smaller amount, they are looking to sharing that with other schools and being able to come up with something in the area.  The Excellence in Education Council, I am sensitive to Mr. Tegeler.  I anticipated they would be in opposition and I will just have to say in response.  It is true what the Council voted, but I am not sure, last year, as to research and development.  I'm not sure that the people voted that way when they voted to have the lottery funds...and as we traveled across the district, I think people have recognized all the good and exciting things that have happened with the Excellence in Education Fund and the Council and the work they've done.  I just think they think it's ...  it needs something new and I would use the word, innovative, injected into it.  That we've done a great deal with that but it is now almost like reinventing the wheel, that we're seeing the very same things, many times, coming forward from schools.  And I have not heard, as you did not hear from one school district, please, please, please do not take away our


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Excellence in Education Funds.  And so, thank you again for your patience.  I do think that's some interesting questions, Senator Beutler, on testing and how we may approach that.  That, in itself, is a very interesting topic.  Senator Wickersham, you had to be called out of the room and someone else actually testified to, I think the point you've been trying to get to that I know you've always wanted to and a system ...  and a reporting system that would take in some of the accounting piece from our state department and the overlay and make sure, that at the same time, we're doing both.  And so, I look forward to that discussion in seeing what we need to do.  With that, I will...if you have any final questions for me, I will be happy to answer them.  I hoped I've touched on a few of the things, as I sat and listened to people who testified and to your questions and look forward to working with you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions for Senator Bohlke?  -Thank you, Senator Bohlke, for closing.  That will end the hearing on 1228.  We'll open...


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Before opening, may I ask one thing?




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Suttle, I am very sorry that...  I did not anticipate this taking quite so long and because.  there is a funeral I cannot attend tomorrow, I really need to leave to go tonight to meet with family members.  And so, I am going to have to leave and Senator Wickersham has agreed, in very short notice, to open on this next bill that he's signed on with me that I know he's excited about it and so I thank him for doing that.  I apologize to the committee but the other scenario, I would have to miss session all day tomorrow and so I'm going to have to exit now.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And you all may really appreciate that,' also.  I don't know.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Senator Wickersham will open the bill on 1336.  As he's coming up, could I see the number of hands that are going to testify, proponents, for 1336?  Opponents?  Neutral?  Okay, maybe