Transcript Prepared by the Clerk of the Legislature

Transcriber's Office


Committee on Education LB 1229

February 9, 1998


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LB 1229


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Bohlke.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Suttle and colleagues, it is my privilege today, and I do believe it's a privilege, to introduce to you LB 1229.  Since I have served as Chair of this committee, we have discussed for many years the lack of services we have for a group of children with high ability.  Our former colleague, Jan McKenzie, introduced a bill that moved us along the way to say that schools are required to identify students with high ability but, I guess this is now the remainder of what I see as a need, the direction the state needs to go.  It ...  I'll go through some of the main points of the bill with you and then be open to questions.  But, school districts will be required to have approved, accelerated or differential curricular programs to serve the


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educational needs of identified learners with high ability.  And school districts shall annually provide the Department of Education with a copy of their criteria for identifying learners with high ability, the number of students identified according to the criteria, and the number of students participating in an approved accelerated or differentiated curriculum program.  School districts shall also have a list of the students identified and how the students compare to the criteria available for the inspection by the Department of Education.  The Legislature shall appropriate funds to be distributed by the Department of Education as matching funds annually on or before September 1.  It is the intent to appropriate $6 million for FY 1998-1999, and increase the appropriation each year thereafter by the percentage growth in identified participating students plus the basic allowable growth rate.  That means that, just simply, that it will continue to grow so that it will not be frozen at that amount.  Local systems may apply to the Department of Education for matching funds pursuant to this section.  Each eligible local system.  shall receive approximately $6,000 plus a pro rata share of the remainder of the appropriation based on identified students.  We had some discussion on this and, originally, it even had some matching funds in there for applying for the $6,000.  And in the end, made the decision that, no, in order to get these programs up and going, we will simply say an allotment of $6,000; that they do not really have to, at that point, come up with any matching funds; that should be able to get them starting in some direction.  The eligible systems shall operate an approved, accelerated, or differential curriculum program; provide funds from other sources for the approved, accelerated, or differential curriculum program, greater or equal to 50 percent of the funds received.  If a local system will not be providing the necessary matching funds, the local system shall request a reduction in the amount received pursuant to this section, such as the local system will be in compliance.  Then it says, the State Board of Education will develop the rules and regulations; and, one other very important feature, are the funds that they receive will not be counted as a receipt.  And so, I think it's certainly helping to move schools in a direction that we have heard many schools had wished to do but thought they did not have the funds available to implement a program.  Currently, under state law, we require students of high ability to be identified; but then comes the question, what


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then?  And I would say, as I think about special education, that students with high ability also could be looked as a part of special education; their needs are unique, as other student's needs are unique.  And now, we certainly identify students who are special education students.  But now, when we identify students of high ability, we do nothing ...  we offer no programs.  I think that we certainly would understand that we would not operate in that fashion in other areas of special education.  And I believe that this obligation has gone for too long to be an obligation of the state that has been unmet.  The questions as to why we have an obligation will be answered, really by the, I think best, by the people who will be following me in testimony.  I always think it's interesting to hear from people.  Certainly, the testimony, we had heard in the past when then Senator Jan McKenzie had a bill, was very compelling about the-needs, the real needs Of students that they have; and how, generally, those needs are not being met.  So, I look forward to the testimony.  I thank the many people who did a great deal of work on this bill, that you'll be hearing from, and I especially look forward to hearing from some of the students who are here today as to what they perceive as their needs that have been unmet, because usually they tell the best stories.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Any questions from the committee?  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Senator Bohlke, you mentioned criteria for identifying high ability students.  The school would say what their criteria are and then compare that with what the department has.  Is there some general agreement on what these criteria are?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  In our Rule 10 now, there's a very general description of the criteria; but, as my understanding, and I know there are people here from the department to testify.  The department, since we have been requiring identification, have been working towards a more specific criteria that will be in place.


SENATOR RAIKES:  So this is kind of a moving target right now.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Well, like I say, you could look at Rule 10


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and there would be ...  but I think it's fairly general.  What I'm saying is I think that if not right now, very soon, and that would be a question we could ask them if there will not be more specific criteria, because as I read it now, it's fairly general.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay.  One other question.  The funding, you have $6,000 per school, is that right?  To get things going?




SENATOR RAIKES:  And then anything over that amount would be matched?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Would be...  right, it really be leveraged.  If a school actually puts up, say $1, they get $2.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay.  So...  oh, okay.  I didn't understand that so that clarifies that.  Thanks.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  Yes, again, the financial part.  It says something about $300,000 for a start-up.  Do...  or is there someone that can...


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Oh, excuse me, right.  I forgot to mention that.  We do have in there, also, a percentage of the $6 million that's available, apart from the $6,000.  If a school wants to write for a grant for start-up posts and actually, that's then a total of $300,000 that would available.  So, if a school wants additional money besides that $6,000, they would be able to apply for that.  Thank you.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  And then, another question.  Then, as you said, the $6,000 figures out to be about $1.7 million, I believe.  Then that remaining $3.9 million, schools apply for that or can you explain that to me?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  The schools ...  we have the initial money which is part of the A bill, right.  And then the remaining money will go to the schools according to the students who are identified and having a program in place.  So it will be


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a pro rata, really, at that point.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  The schools


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Because we don't know right.


SENATOR STUHR:  They have to apply for that $3.9 million.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Well, they have ...  they will have to report to the department, they will have to identify the students and report that they have a program going.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Then they will be able ...  they will look at the amount of money that's available.


SENATOR STUHR:  All right.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Willhoft.


SENATOR WILLHOFT:  Just so I get this straight in my mind.  This provides $6,000 for each school that has an accelerated or differential educational system starting or in place.  They can apply for a grant for start-up, in addition to the $6,000; and this does not count against their available funds in computing their other state aid formula under 806, is that correct?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Against their state aid, right.  Oftentimes, when sometimes when schools receive resources, that's counted as a receipt and then actually that ends up hurting them.  So, no, this does not count as a resource or a receipt.  They do not have to count that and you were right on point with each one of those.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Bohlke, I have a question.  I have a daughter who is a teacher for behaviorally disordered kids and she has the whole gamut of high ability learners as well as low.  If you have a high ability learner, that because they haven't been challenged enough, have developed behavioral difficulties, would this bill take into account the special double labeling of students?


SENA TOR BOHLKE:  Well, I hadn't actually thought of that but


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my initial reaction to you is that a student, in my mind, a student would still count as a high ability student.  It shouldn't preclude that student from counting as a high ability student just because they're in another program.  I mean, we could think of other programs that they may be a part of.  So I ...  because those special education funds are one channel...




SENATOR BOHLKE:  ...  it doesn't seem to me that that student should be prevented from being counted as a high ability learner because, in fact, they are and they're in the system, and I would assume that they would be attending whatever program was being developed and would be a part of that program.  So, I don't think so.  That may be a good question', I think, at some point, Dr.  Christensen will be testifying to clarify and, actually, it's not one that I had thought of but that's just my initial reaction to you.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  At least my intent and we'll hear what the people have to say behind me.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Well, you know, I've come at it from a different angle and just because I have been educated by my daughter...


SENATOR BOHLKE:  No, I know that, from my background in special education, that that scenario will be true.  And so, I think we do heed to, during the hearing, clarify; or certainly in committee, make sure that we are clear on that point.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Okay.  Any other questions from the committee., I see none.  Thank you.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  I have, on my list here, Susan Tracy from the Nebraska Parent Network, would be first.


SUSAN TRACY:  Good afternoon.  My name is Susan Tracy and I am President of the Nebraska Parent Network which is an


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advocacy, educational, and support group for parents of gifted children.  I support the passage of LB 1229.  In 1995, I joined a small group of parents to plan a conference addressing the issues parents face in raising gifted and talented children.  After we publicized the conference, we were amazed and overwhelmed by the number of parents who called us expressing their frustration over the lack of services for their children.  I personally received calls from parents across the state.  These parents told me that school districts, administrators, and teachers could offer nothing for their children who are often many levels beyond what was available in the regular classroom.  They were told -things such as, we don't have the money for extras like that; or, your child is making wonderful grades, you should be satisfied; or, gifted kids will make it anyway, we need to concentrate on the other kids.  And yet, these parents told me, their children were unchallenged and frustrated.  Sometimes they acted out as a way of relieving their boredom, sometimes they simply gave up, and tuned out, never realizing their potential as an academic achiever.  Nebraska is one of the few states that does not require school districts to serve the needs ...  the special needs of the high ability learner.  All of the states that surround us, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa, and South Dakota, provide funding for gifted education and some also mandate services.  Those of us who live in the metropolitan areas around Omaha and Lincoln, are fortunate in that our school districts at least offer some kind of services for children of high ability.  In my district, my child is gifted for 45 minutes once a week.  But it wasn't until I was involved in planning this conference that I found out that, insufficient as it may be, we at least have a gifted program and train teachers.  Most of the school districts in rural Nebraska have nothing to offer their gifted and talented children.  Nebraska school districts are under much economic pressure these days.  Funding for gifted programs is not feasible for some districts whose budgets are under tight constraints.  Where gifted programs exist, they are in danger of extinction.  Legislative Bill 1229 will go a long way toward providing the training and programs necessary to help this very underserved population.  It will show parents, teachers, and school districts that this state considers gifted education a necessity, not a frill.  I'm speaking in support of LB 1229 today, on behalf of all of the thousands of parents of gifted children in Nebraska who could not be here today.


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We all want the very best education for our children.  These children may not make it anyway, if their special educational needs are not met.  Please help us keep our best and brightest in Nebraska.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Any questions of Ms.  Tracy?  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  Yes, do you have any estimate about ...  on the number of gifted children there might be in Nebraska?


SUSAN TRACY:  I have no idea because this is the first year that school districts have been required to identify children.  Usually, estimates range anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of the population and, again, that kind of depends on your criteria for identification.  But if you ...  you know, if you figured that between 10 and 20 percent of the children in Nebraska are of high ability, that's a pretty good percentage of the school population.


SENATOR STUHR:  okay.  You mentioned criteria.  What criteria is used presently?


SUSAN TRACY:  Presently, the only criteria that's used across the state is, as a result of LB 647 which requires school districts to identify gifted and this past year, Rule 3 was passed by the State Department which, I ...  you know, has a criteria for identification and also produced a manual for use by school districts, for use in identification.  But, as I understand, that they're going to be, hopefully, refining the criteria that's used for that SO.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions?  Thank you.


SUSAN TRACY:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  And we have Ted Larson next.


TED LARSON:  My name is Ted Larson.  I'm here to speak on behalf of LB 1229 and I'm here to speak on behalf of the' Nebraska Association for the Gifted.  I'm the president of this organization.  We represent over 350 teachers,


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administrators, school board members, and parents from across the state of Nebraska.  You've already heard from the Nebraska Parents Network and I think that the fact that there are two organizations committed to gifted education in the state should indicate the level of interest in this matter.  Just who are the gifted and talented?  In 1971, former Commissioner of Education Sidney Marlin stated that gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who, by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance.  These children require differentiated educational programs and services beyond those normally provided by the regular school system in order to realize their contribution to themselves and society.  And although, Mr.  Marlin suggested the gifted and talented students require services beyond those normally provided, the U.S.  Department of Education in 1993, described the current state of how we educate our top students in this country as the quiet crisis.  The summary of.  this report stated-that the United States is squandering one of its most precious resources:  the gifts, talents, and high interests of many of its students.  In a broad range of intellectual and artistic endeavors, these youngsters are not challenged to their best work.  This problem is especially severe among economically disadvantaged and minority students who have access to fewer advanced educational opportunities.  We must understand that gifted education demands investment of time, money, and energy.  When I began my teaching career, I knew very little about the needs of gifted and talented learners.  I also came face-to-face with the rather strange view of giftedness that assumes that giftedness is an already developed capacity rather than a capacity that needs our nurturing and support.  This view is accompanied by the belief that the Einsteins, the Newtons, the Curies did not need any help in developing their talents.  When we consider LB 1229, we also need to consider changes which may be forced upon us by another piece of legislation and that being LB 1114.  Some school districts, such as Lincoln, provide services for gifted and talented students which are not mandated by law.  School districts, such as Lincoln, may decide to budget scarce resources elsewhere, which would certainly have a negative impact upon our efforts to support gifted populations.  Legislative Bill 1229 will undoubtedly affect education in the entire state.  A gifted education curriculum is based on the regular education curriculum.  The drive to strengthen


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education of students with outstanding talents is a drive toward education excellence for all students.  Education reform will slowed if it is restricted to boosting standards for students at the bottom and the middle rungs of the academic ladder.  At the same time, we raise the floor by adopting statewide curriculum standards, we must also raise the ceiling for the highest academic levels for which we strive.  As the 1993 Department of Education report summarizes, we need to view our gifted and talented as a resource, perhaps our most valuable natural resource.  We must not squander this resource in much the same way we have squandered other natural resources.  Instead, we must promote academic excellence when students first enter our schools.  All students, including the gifted, develop to their full potential, only when their special strengths are identified and supported throughout their lives.  Legislative Bill 1229 is especially important to Nebraska due to the unique nature of our state, with the growing diversity of urban, rural, and suburban school districts.  This bill will help all school districts identify students with outstanding talent and then allow them to develop to their full potential.  This bill represents a commitment from the state of Nebraska and it is only the beginning.  This bill will have a ripple effect, reaching far beyond any single classroom in any single district.  When I began this testimony, I stated that I represented the Nebraska Association for the Gifted.  I also represent students like Matt.  Last night as I was pondering what I was going to say to this committee, the telephone rang and it was Matt.  Matt is a former student of mine who now lives in West Virginia.  When he lived in Lincoln, he was identified as being a gifted student.  I asked Matt what he would say to you to convince you to support this bill.  After a pause, Matt told me that Fermi, Einstein, Curie, Mozart, and Newton all were gifted.  Gifted students, Matt told me, change the course of history.  When you support gifted education, you are supporting the future.  This bill is not only an investment in gifted kids, it is an investment in our future.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Mr.  Larson.  Any questions from the committee?  Thank you very much, sir.


TED LARSON:  Thank you.


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SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any more proponents to come forward?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Ouch.  Senator Suttle, members of the committee, for the record, my name is Doug Christensen, I'm the Commissioner of Education, and I'm here representing the State Board of Education today.  We welcome the opportunity to encourage you to move LB 1229 to the floor of the Legislature as quickly as possible.  We want to thank you, the Education Committee members, and other state senators for their strong support and for their willingness to address the unmet needs of the state's brightest and most talented young students.  I'm pleased to have with me today, Jan McKenzie, who is our consultant.  Many of you may recognize her.  And I'll not say anything else about that.  We are fortunate to have her as our consultant and she's done a lot of great work already with us in regards to our high ability learners.  The State Board and Department of Education have demonstrated their commitment to high ability learners by one, adopting Rule 3 for the identification of high ability students; two, developing research-based best practices guidelines for school district in identification as well as programming for high ability learners; three, reallocating our department funds for a full-time consultant in high ability learners; and four, through the work that we've already done in helping schools meeting the needs of the high ability learners including identification.  We are committed to taking the next steps that will be available when the funding and the services are provided on a statewide basis.  We are also committed to meeting the deadlines that are identified in the proposed legislation for the 1998-99 school year.  It is the right time and this is the right thing to do.  Under LB 647, Nebraska schools are required to identify high ability learners statewide and we put Rule 3 in place to cause that to happen as well as provide a technical assistance to schools that ask.  Schools statewide have spent this past year identifying high ability learners, looking at their own situation, looking at the needs of their high ability learners and deciding how best to meet those needs.  In terms of programs and services to students, there isn't a great deal happening because the resources simply are not there.  But we do know who our high ability learners are.  We know where they are.  They are in all of our schools statewide, both rural and urban.  And we also hear from many of the administrators and boards of education in the local schools who want to serve high


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ability learners but the resources and technical assistance have not been there and this legislation will provide those resources and we are ready to provide that technical assistance.  And now that we know who they are and where they are,.  we think this is the right thing to do and no longer ignore this population of students that needs this help.  As you know, we've been working to raise the standards of learning and academic achievement for Nebraska students so that they can better compete nationally, globally, once they graduate.  It would be a disservice not to work also to raise the standards for the students that are high ability learners.  We believe the public support is there.  In 1992, we conducted a Gallup poll of Nebraska citizens where it showed that 84 percent of the citizens in this state have responded to that survey, wanted our schools to provide a more challenging education for students with high ability.  We must provide the appropriate accelerated curriculum, the appropriate experience, and adequate resources that are needed by our high ability students.  With the funding available in 1998-99, we are confident that the schools will be ready to put in place those programs and services that they've already begun to build.  Thank you for your continued support of K-12 education and, especially with this bill, for the support of our young high-ability learners.  We would respond to questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions for Dr.  Christensen?  I just want to repeat the one I asked Senator Bohlke concerning the double-labeled students.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I would see no reason why that student would not be counted in both categories because those needs are different.  They need different programs, different services, different resources, and that to not count them in both ways would make sure that that student would probably receive only the service for which they received the funds.  So, we would advocate that it would be both.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Dr.  Christensen, the number of students involved here, is you have in mind a percentage or, in fact, that's the way it's defined is by high ability is the upper X percent.


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DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Yes.  There...  the last time that we were involved the high-ability learner, gifted education prior to LB 1059 which would have been in 1989, roughly between 10 and 11 percent of the students, statewide, were in a program called the gifted program.  And that pretty well matches the national figures that they estimate are out there so that you would expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 to 35,000 students statewide to be affected by this program on a K-12 basis.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay, thanks.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Um-hum.  Is that right?


SENATOR SUTTLE:  That triggers another question for me.  How many student teachers or teachers that have already been trained are prepared to...I think it takes a talented teacher to teach these kids and keep up with them.  I have one that was a real challenge to keep up with.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Well, oh, that's going to be a major problem and I think it will take...  there will be at time lag in responding to this on a statewide basis that over the past few years, when there's been no mandate to do gifted, a person going into teaching would have been guaranteeing that they likely not get a job if they went into ...  for certification or endorsement in gifted.  So we expect that the state colleges and universities that are in teacher training programs will respond to this because the needs will be out there.  But that will take some time and that's why it's so terribly important for us to have the technical assistance and we've already done a lot of work with the colleges and universities to get those folks ready to help out as well and be a team.  The folks in the educational service units are ready to help out so I think we have a pretty good cadre of people.  Do you want to respond specifically to that?


JAN McKENZIE:  There have been numerous conversations ...  this is Jan McKenzie, for the record ...  numerous conversations taking place, particularly at the university level between the deans of education on the three campus sites.  Quite honestly, right now in Nebraska, we do not have one full-time faculty member on any campus at the university working with teacher training related to high-ability


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learners.  All those programs, as people have retired, have basically been eliminated.  So it certainly is a concern among the parents, among teachers, and at that level, to try to get some things in place and maybe rethink the way we did it., using distance learning and some new ways of doing what had been done in the past in a very traditional way.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I might comment that we think we can respond fairly quickly to get some things going so there isn't a huge stall pattern in that we are equipping, in the Department of Education, a distance learning classroom that's both telephonecomputer based as well as the teleconferencing network so that we can begin working immediately without having to have to chop Jan into ten different parts to send her all over the state so we think we're ready to respond.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Very good.  Senator Raikes has one more question.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Yeah, this is it.  The money question.  In effect here, as I understand it, about a third of this cost, above the start-up cost, would in effect be an unfunded mandate for local schools.  Am I correct in that?  And then, the other thing is, as far as the incidence on schools, if some schools now have a program in place that they've been funding then, in effect, this would be for them if it was an adequate program for ...  this would be some additional money with really no additional expense of their part.  Do I have those two things right?


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  Let me respond to the latter one first.  I think the latter one is correct.  Those districts would certainly not get penalized that are already expending funds for gifted education and this would probably help put all of the pieces together for them.  I doubt if the monies are going to be totally adequate for every school district but I don't think that they're going to be so inadequate that some small matching funds and support from the local district will make it impossible.  I just don't think it will.  And, of course, we're going to encourage districts to do things cooperatively, to share across districts using their educational service units, BO we think that can make it more costeffective.  Do you want to respond to any part of that?


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JAN McKENZIE:  Yeah, I think, again, Jan McKenzie, the ...  one of the reasons that...  I know when Senator Bohlke was asking me questions about how other states do this, that $6,000 base, that one percent, is really for many districts more than they've ever been able to put toward this issue before and, in fact, will help with teacher training and purchase .of some basic materials and resource items that have never been there before.  It is a requirement to provide services but not a requirement to provide a program.  And services, using what resources you have at your district, in providing good teacher support, does not necessarily constitute a huge expense.  And I think that ...  that's a very distinct difference from what people in the past thought of as a program.  So districts that have never been doing this.  before are going to be able to develop and grow into the kinds of services they can provide without creating a whole separate program.


DOUG CHRISTENSEN:  I might add to that that this bill does judiciously set a priority for the first time, to deal with accelerated and differentiated curriculum and there are more, pieces to gifted education than just that.  And so, it isn't going to be a shotgun approach to gifted, it's to say the first thing that's got to happen is accelerated and differentiated curriculum and that is correct.  So, it isn't going to be spread to a whole bunch of programs that are not done well.  It will be focused in that area and we think that's good.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  Yes, somewhere in the bill it also talks about special education allowances.  Now, can you help me distinguish, is this part of any special education program?


JAN McKENZIE:  Senator Stuhr, this in...  in Nebraska we do not include high-ability learners as a category of special education.  In some states, it is.




JAN McKENZIE:  And it is funded and managed in much the same way.  My understanding, as I read through the bill, was that


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that language has to be included because this is being treated the same way that special education is in terms of the funding formula.  That it is being...  it is not included in a way that would impact equalization aid.  That's why those sections had to be included.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.  Next proponent?


HEIDI GOUTHRO:  Hello.  My name is Heidi Gouthro and I grew up in the Lincoln Public School system as a gifted and highly-gifted child.  I want to testify today just to let you know what goes on for some of us.  And when I started school in kindergarten, I was bored.  I knew how to read.  I knew how to write.  I knew how to do math.  So I didn't learn anything.  What I did get to do was help everybody else learn.  I can remember, during my elementary school career, being put into the normal reading group when I was reading novels such as Jane Eyre and books by Charles Dickens.  They put me in a fifth grade reader.  Oftentimes my enrichment was Just to do an extra report so the whole class would be assigned a report on a part of the body, I'd get two of them.  I was lucky though.  I was in Lincoln Public Schools which had a gifted program and so, eventually, I learned how to make this work for me *and I received mentoring in French which was a one-one-one assistance and it allowed me to accelerate.  By the time I was a junior in high school, I was taking third-year university classes in French.  I was taking Calculus at the the University, all of which was provided by the Lincoln Public Schools..  I was very happy with that.  Now that I'm out of college and I am a teacher myself, I work as a mentor in the public school system here in Lincoln.  I work with high-ability learners, they are classified as highly gifted, allowing them to accelerate, to explore new possibilities.  And my students heard that I was coming to testify today and they thought, this was really needed, that they could see a need for gifted education in Nebraska.  Some of them are also worried about what's going to happen to the gifted program in Lincoln due to other legislation that's been passed which might require budget cuts.  One thing that comes to my mind is a lot of times we expect the gifted to guide themself.  That's happened with me.  Somebody just said, oh, go look it up.  You can find out on your own.  And


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we can't always do that because some times the resources aren't available to look it up.  It's hard for a small kid to go to a book and do a research project.  I learned how to do them in college.  I didn't know how to do them in elementary school.  I needed someone to guide me and put me or, the right path.  Fortunately, I had people available to do that.  I know a lot of school districts where that is not available.  I have students that I work with in private practice also, who are highly gifted.  I also work with learning disabled students.  And what I'm finding is that parents that can afford to send their kids to me and that live near enough to me, provide enrichment activities for their children.  The parents that don't live in the Omaha or Lincoln areas, and can't afford it, you know, may not have those resources to send their children so those children sit in school, stay bored, and don't get these wonderful opportunities.  Thank you very much.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Any questions?  See none.  Thank you very much.


DAVID LERCHER:  Thank you for allowing me to speak in favor of LB 1229.  I'm going to approach this from a little different.  Partly through a story to start off and also why this is important to business, students, and the future development of this state.  First story, very briefly, is in Florida there was one company that was...


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Excuse me, pull the microphone around in front.






DAVID LERCHER:  Can you hear me better?  Thank you.  This is a little new for me.  In Florida, there was one company that wanted to ...  they were a machinery company and they had, it was tool and die.  And they were looking for students, or not students, for workers so they went through the normal channels, they went through the papers, they had technical recruiters, they advertised, and they did whatever they could and they were not able to find sufficient help.  Finally, they decided that maybe we should develop our programs ourselves.  And what they did, is they


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started...  they got people in their company that went to the schools and they told students, impressionable students, you know if you go into this field, number one, it requires a lot of intelligence because you'll be using like period design with machinery, some very high skills, computer skills.  You'll also receive good salaries because there's a tremendous demand, and furthermore, this is the coming thing.  They started this process and then they had the students work with mentors from the company, and developed, and as a result after four or five years, they had an on-going program and continual workers.  And that's how they developed it.  Now I'd like to skip to, I was...  recently attended Governor Nelson's conference on how to attract and retain skilled workers to Nebraska.  A few points that they developed was that the businesses, because there is such a shortage of skilled workers, have realized that they need to have liaisons with the elementary, secondary, and high schools so that they in turn can have mentorships, increased participation, and they want to attract the type of students to their industry.  They also realize that they would like to simplify the rules of education so that that would be easier to get qualified help.  Pad they also, we mentioned someone from rural Nebraska.  Well, there's a lot of students there as well; but they want to be able to have...  there was such a shortage and they realized the competition is so fierce that they must take a much more active role in and participate in the teaching of students and there are a lot of companies that are prepared to start that.  And one...  left hand in the education, and business in the right, and politicians on the other side can have a good cohesion.  Now, the next thing, in this process.  I'd like to talk about my own experience and my son.  My son was part of an academic decathlon, a group at Burke High School.  What this is is that students from the high schools right across the state, and this is one way of identifying some intelligent students, they compete on the basis of math, science, language, arts, fine arts, history, et cetera.  They also have to do public presentations and they also are required to do on-the-spot questioning to see what they do and these students compete.  It's like, basically, an orange bowl; and all the schools, for those of you who are not familiar, for the high schools, compete on this.  They each send a team and I know my son, he worked extremely hard in this one...  in this one course.  In fact, he spent almost...he spent a lot of time on it because he did enjoy


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it and then they competed and Burke High School won first in the state and then they competed nationally.  But this was his interest.  This is my son who we had a terrible time getting him through high school, believe me.  He had ...  was a runner-up as a National Merit Scholar but he went to some...some classes he found very interesting, especially in honors English which subsequently was stopped because it was insufficient funds and the teacher was just literally exhausted because there was so much, in addition to regular duties, to work with some of these students and there was no funding in support.  I don't know if she would want me to spy this, but, you know, why?  You know, what can I do?  But in addition to that, we had a hard time getting him through because he's a real computer whiz, my son.  And he started repairing and building computers a few years back and trouble-shooting them and developing them and then he took a computer course at school.  Well, he went a few times and he figured, you know, once they tell me it once, I've got it.  I don't need to be told the same thing three or four or five times.  And so, as a result, he didn't go ...  he stopped going.  The way we got ...  we finally were able to help with that, we were able to have him take a course on C Plus Plus at UNO so that he was able to do it.  He got a B on that and he got an F in the course at school because he just didn't go.  He just ...  he says, you know, I just don't have...  they don't interest me.  I know the stuff already.  So it was very, very frustrating for us to get him through.  In some courses, he was also a late bird, he didn't like to get up early in the morning.  So there was some problems there as well.  But we did manage to get through him.  Now he's at Iowa State and I'm going into the ...  now he's doing computer engineering and so far, so good, and we're just crossing our fingers.  But he found that was an outlet for him and now he goes on time.  He's also starting a business that he's going to be as a reseller of computer parts, so he's going to be doing a business while he's there helping other students both build computers and sell them.  And this is one of the students that was a high-ability learner and that was frustrated.  And we came from another state but I won't go into that.  Now, another thing is my other son is at Columbian School and he just won...  they came first in the state in Knowledgemaster which is sort of mini-form of academic decathlon and they came third in the nation for the Knowledgemasters, and they do it through computers.  And Columbian is one of those schools where the parents are very


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involved.  I mean there is many, many committees where the parents are involved.  If they need something, the parents go out and do it.  It's a real cooperation between business, parents, and education, for these students to develop.  And they are developing.  It's just ...  it's a pleasure for me to be able to send my son to that school, my younger son, and to have him achieve what he's achieving and he loves it.  He works ...  well, he works very hard but he does achieve a great deal.  Now, one thing I'd like to mention, that in the academic decathlon, and these groups right across, there is a huge brain drain, probably about 85 percent of these students are leaving this state and going elsewhere, which is tremendous.  Some of our top students, and this has been going on for a long period of time, this is no new news.  They've been going elsewhere because they weren't....they didn't have the mentoring and the nurturing to begin with and the company doesn't' be involved in their development so, in essence, these are like high-ability...  if these were the same...  if these were football players, as an example, they would have scouts from all over recruiting these people because of their ability.  But because they are high learners, you know, the program they had...  the program was .in being danger of being shut down because there wasn't sufficient funds.  And here, in one hand, businesses are crying, we need talented people; and on the other hand,, we don't, you know, we're just like the common pool.  And why, cause when it's so critical to bring talented people here, why not develop our own?  It just does not make sense.  Okay, another thing, there's ways of ...  what I'm thinking of, helping money...  since money is always a major issue of what schools can do.  One thing they can do, when these businesses are trying to recruit talented people to the state, the schools, if they have talented programs, if know, we need to have a database of people.  Now we're talking about recruiting of professional, technical, and managerial people to this state.  We need to have a database.  My wife was, as an example, is a talented person that the University of Nebraska Med Center and Children's recruited; but we need to have a database of people that are coming that can say what their interests are and if they have talented children, which they often do, that we have in these curriculums or wherever you're going, whether it's rural or metropolitan Nebraska, Omaha, I'm almost finished ...  that we have these things in place.  It's a tremendous recruiting tool and businesses, if the schools


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could help, would most definitely help with, you know, with funding and sources so that they can do these matching funds you're talking about.  Because right now, we're losing these people, a lot of them.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Could you give us your name again?


DAVID LERCHER:  David Lercher.  L, well, okay.  That's one thing I think we need to do.  I came from Memphis, Tennessee, and they had a program there and, luckily, my son was a identified early and he went through this program so when he came here, we thought we'd have a hard time but it was very simple for him.




DAVID LERCHER:  So, this is something we need to do in this state.  I We cannot continue to lose our high-ability students.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Mr.  Lercher.  Any questions?  I see none.  Thank you.




DEB ANDREWS:  My name is Deb Andrews.  I'm here in support of LB 1229.  1 did sign in previously.  I'm a member of Nebraska Parent Network.  I'm here as a Mom and there's been excellent testimony from the people that preceded me.  I won't be redundant.  I did want to address the double-label question, the behaviorally disordered.  When my son was identified as high ability and the higher the ability of the child, the more different their brain is and the more they need, other than the regular classrooms curriculum.  He did not get that.  Those needs were not met and he virtually shut down.  It was very, very scary for me and I couldn't get help from my district so I enrolled him in another state that does provide funds and mandates services for gifted.  They have programs in place and he recovered and he's doing very well now.  But I can see how, with the minority, the disadvantaged child who did not have informed parents, at the point where my son was stopping and not functioning and not doing anything, if that had gone on for an extended period, he would be probably LD or BD or whatever because he got to the point where he couldn't do the work.  They had


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him with the slow groups and he really couldn't understand it.  And your question, Senator Raikes, about the curriculum and the funding and those kinds of things, I think the very important thing with this bill is that it focuses on the curriculum.  They don't just say, program, whatever that may mean.  They focus on differentiated, accelerated curriculum, and that's very vital for these children.  They need that to be able to learn.  Thank you very much for addressing this issue.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Any questions?  I see none.  After you get done, sir, I was wondering if maybe one of the students could come up after you.  They are wanting to testify.


MILFORD L.  SMITH:  Okay.  I'll be very brief because some of the questions that ...  Milford L.  Smith, representing NRCSA, Nebraska Rural Community Schools.  Many of my concerns have been addressed by ex-Senator McKenzie and Dr.  Christensen early.  But for the record, I would like this committee to know that NRCSA supports high-ability learning.  We would like to have assurance that we could have a cooperative agreements or sharing agreements or distance learning agreements that was discussed earlier or other technological aspects to help rural Nebraska achieve those goals.  And that's basically my testimony.  I'll be happy to answer questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions?  I see none.  And I thank you very much.


MILFORD L.  SMITH:  Thank you.




DANIEL NABER:  Hi, my name is Daniel Naber.  I'm a seventh grader at Westridge Middle School in Grand Island.  I support LB 1229.  1 have been in several different gifted programs.  I was in a program called Gifted and Talented in fourth and fifth grade that we learned a stuff other kids didn't have the chance to learn.  And even there, I didn't feel very challenged because there were hardly any supplies.  We were always running to get simple markers or copies or anything.  And, then, after ter that, I went to a program that I'm currently in.  It's called Future Problem Solving and


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that talks about several ...  we take a problem and examine it, that would possibly happen in the future, and we try to solve it and it helps us look at different issues.  But I feel that in the classroom, it's not enough.  I feel bored almost every day.  They don't challenge us.  Sometime a lot of people that are the smarter people will mess around, not listen, they get bored.  The day just seems to wear on and in sixth grade I had a lot of problems with going to school.  I often played hooky and stuff like that.  And I think is mainly because school was boring to me and it's just we didn't have enough stuff or supplies for any of the kids that are gifted and a lot of times you wouldn't even be recognized and I still see that happening today.  And so, we are going to be the future senators, directors, authors, actors, athletes of the future, and without these programs we won't know how to do that.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Daniel.  Are you doing better this year in seventh grade?




SENATOR SUTTLE:  Good.  Good.  Any other questions for Daniel?  Thank you so much for coming, Daniel.  Next student.  Oh, I'm sorry.  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  I just wondered what Daniel's interests ...  what are your main interests right-now?


DANIEL NABER:  In what?  Just like?


SENATOR STUHR:  In school academically, do you have some area that you really enjoy?


DANIEL NABER:  Sciences.  More like the universe and the...




DANIEL NABER:  Yes.  And I also like the fantasy stuff, about what could be out there.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  All right.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Keep dreaming, Daniel.


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GRANT BACHMAN:  My name is Greg Bachman.  I'm a seventh grader at Westridge Middle School in Grand Island, Nebraska.  I think, that just because gifted people are talented, they shouldn't be neglected.  An example of having just one teacher helping them while the slower learners have maybe three or four.  I think that the gifted people are just as important as the slower learners are.  Right now I'm in a program as Dan mentioned that's Future Problem Solvers or FPS.  In this program, we are making decisions about things, problems, solutions, things that might happen in the near future.  If we are not ...  if funding for these programs do not go on any more, there could be ...  we could stumble, causing us to end up with low quality jobs making minimum wage and so I guess I could just say that I'm in support of Bill 1229.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much, Grant.  Appreciate your coming.  Any other students wanting to speak?  I'm certainly glad to see a female among the bunch.


KATI MANN:  Thank you.  My name is Kati Mann and I went to the Professional Development Center for three years, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.  That was really good for me because my regular school wasn't challenging enough.  We got to go to ...  we got to go on lots of field trips to Halsey State Park, we got to go to the Space Camp in Kansas City.  But some of the things weren't funded well enough and we were at the Thomas Center main building.  There was a lack of software for computers and lots of markers, they were all dried up.  (laughter)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  That happens in the Capitol, too.


KATI MANN:  There was teachers, too.  They just weren't very many of them.  It was like the gifted kids ...  or the gifted kids got way fewer teachers than the people who weren't.  And, like I don't remember who said it, but the reading level I was in in second grade, I was way ahead of everyone and my Mom asked that I could be put into a higher reading level so I was put in a third grade reading level, and my second-grade teacher made fun of me for it.  And it was pretty evil.  So, I'd just like you to consider that before you vote on the bill.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Do you get teased by the other


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kids because you're smart?


KATI MANN:  Not now.  Any questions?


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions?  Thank you.


ANDY McDOWELL:  Hi.  My name's Andy McDowell.  I'm a seventh grade at Westridge Middle School.  I was kind of Dan in sixth grade.  I didn't like school.  It was really boring and now I'm like...I like...  I was in Challenge Center, too.  That was like really fun for me and ...  but we had to go out of school and we had to make up the homework that ...  I didn't even make it up so I got bad grades and stuff but ...  I'm like really obnoxious in school because it's so boring.  I think that LB 1229 is a really good thing.  It would be really good for the students of Nebraska and I guess that's all.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Andy.  Any questions?  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Well, I'd Just mention that I heard one of you say that you were going to be the future senators and another one said, low quality jobs earning minimum wage.  You people really are pretty perceptive.  (laughter)


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other observations by the committee?  Thank you.


KRISTI SCHEELE:  Good afternoon.  My name is Kristi Scheele and my husband and I are parents of three high ability learners.  As such, LB 1229 is a very important bill to us.  With the passage of Rule 3 and the mandatory identifying of high ability learners, it seems only right we provide the funding for curriculum and programs to help these students.  In my reading and studying about high ability learners, it has been very clear that they have special needs as well as other students.  In fact, it makes no difference if the I.Q.  is 20 to 40 points above or below the average.  They each have special needs.  In Nebraska, we have done a good job serving the students on the other end of the spectrum but I feel the high ability learners have been left to fend for themselves, this hardly seems fair.  After all, the high ability learners have the right to be challenged and reach their full potential just as any other student.  And I think it is vital that the more rural schools, like the one our


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children attend, be just as eligible for funding as the big metropolitan area schools.  Because our smaller communities cannot offer as many learning opportunities as the big cities, we depend on our schools for that ...  to provide those opportunities for our children.  So with that in mind, I think the time is very right to provide funding which will help schools in our state that have programs for these high ability learners to keep them going, or, hopefully, improve them.  And also, to help the schools that do not have programs, get them in place.  I strongly urge you to advance and pass LB 1229.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.  Are there any questions?  Senator Willhoft.


SENATOR WILLHOFT:  I heard you mention the funding for rural schools and smaller schools and I was sitting here listening, I ...  it occurred to me that $6,000 per school, is that a equity problem, where maybe Lincoln may have 3,000 gifted students at $6,000 is $2 a head versus maybe Central City has ...  maybe Grand Island has 300 and that's $200 a head.  In your opinion, would that be an inequity?  Or do you think the $6,000 per school is the right?


KRISTI SCHEELE:  At this point, I'm just really happy to have any funding.  (laughter) After going through ...  our oldest daughter is now a junior at Iowa State University.  You might note she went out of our state to school because Iowa State is very adamant about recruiting high ability learners and they were after her and they won.  So, at this point, I really encourage any and all funding.  I would really like to see it per student across the board at some point, but I think this is a really good start and, hopefully, it will go through and help our high ability learners in this state.


SENATOR WILLHOFT:  I guess that was part of my question is, if it was based on a per student instead of per school, would that be more of an incentive for schools to identify their high learners ...  well, they have to identify them but to provide a program for them.


KRISTI SCHEELE:  I think it possibly would be.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Stuhr.


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SENATOR STUHR:  Yes.  Did your school actually offer any programs in the...


KRISTI SCHEELE:  Senator Stuhr, I feel that we are very fortunate in that we do have a program, limited as it may be.  It still offered some opportunities for our high ability learners to go out and participate in quiz bowls, in the teams competition, and to inform these students of programs available such as summer camps and so forth.  it's not everyday thing, however.  It's kind of like the one parent that said, 45 per week, my student...  or my son is a high ability learner.  And ours is pull-out program and therefore it is limited.  It's approximately 45 minutes a week that they are in the program; but I feel that, at least, it's something to help them get interested in computers or whatever their interest, science projects, whatever.  At least we have something.  And that's why it really important, too, that we don't cut off those schools, just target the ones that don't have any programs because, at least in our case, it's critical budgetwise that, you know, that's the first thing on the chopping block is the gifted.  And I think it's a disservice to the community and the state if we cut those programs.  I think it's real important that we keep them going.


SENATOR STUHR:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  After this couple...  come on ...  how many more proponents will there be?  One, two.  Would you please come up and be ready.


MAUREEN AND JAY VETTER:  We're Maureen and Jay Vetter.  We now live in Lincoln but we lived in, and our children were educated in schools in Fairmont and Grand Island.  They went to Westridge.  Good for you.  (from audience) Pretty nifty.


MAUREEN AND JAY VETTER:  Yes, it is.  And in North Platte.  Our children are grown now and away at school and we've been involved with working with some of the other parents in the Nebraska Parent Network and I just wanted point out some of the changes that we've noticed over the years.  We feel very fortunate that our kids received a good education in the


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public schools, it prepared them well to go on.  But, during the last seven or eight years, there's been a tremendous reversal.  Back in the late eighties and early nineties, our colleges were offering classes in gifted education.  Our children benefitted from that.  They had teachers who were sensitive enough to know to accelerate them and differentiate the curriculum even though they didn't have formal programs, necessarily.  When we moved to North Platte, they had an accelerated curriculum, they were in high school then, of advanced placement classes.  We had the misfortune, during our tenure there, to see that program dismantled and the honors classes dropped.  And I think a lot of that can be attributed to what the Legislature has done with funding for education because our local school leaders have been very insecure over the last eight or ten years and sometimes you've decided to put lids on them, on how much they can spend or how much they can tax.  Put other requirements without making arrangements to replace that money so we're really very strongly in favor of LB 1229.  We believe that it'll stimulate development of programs, not only at the public school levels; but also, I think as Dr.  Christensen mentioned, in the colleges and universities so that they'll be returned to the curriculum.  Back in the late eighties, there were classes offered for teachers all over the state, really, in gifted education.  Now there aren't very many.  And another thing that we're real tickled about is that you're proposing to spend something besides money that people lost gambling on gifted education.  And we think that's great.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Do you have anything to say?


MAUREEN VETTER:  I don't really have anything special to say.  We share a lot of the same feelings on...  I would like to just reemphasize what Ted said earlier, the natural resource.  It's a wonderful nature resource we have in the state of Nebraska and I really think that it's important that we meet the special learning needs of gifted and talented kids.  And I -think this bill really goes a long way to do that.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.


JAY VETTER:  I might mention that I think that funding, as I understand it correctly, it will be prorated per student


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after the $6,000 grant, is that right?


SENATOR SUTTLE:  That's correct.


JAY VETTER:  And having lived in Fairmont and our children started school there, I think that it's important to have the little extra boost for the smaller school.  Oftentimes, it doesn't have a program so that they can at.  least get something started.  If they just got $50 a kid or something, they wouldn't even be able to start anything with that so I really like the formula for funding.  I think it's very fair and equitable, having been in several, districts and lived across the state.


MAUREEN VETTER:  I have one final thing.  Living in western Nebraska, we just moved to Lincoln really, two years ago.  I was the K-12 gifted coordinator in a little school, Hershey, just out of North Platte.  That program has been going for 15 years.  It just now finally went this year.  With North Platte.  so close down the road, I wondered how long it would last.  So for us, it was really sad to see these programs go out, in western Nebraska.  The total gifted program went in North Platte and then now this year, Hershey, so there needs to be incentives for schools in the western part of the state as well.




MARSHALL ADAMS:  Good afternoon, Senator Suttle and members of the Education Committee.  I'm representing the Nebraska Council of School Administrators Legislative Committee and I'm going to let you read the testimony later and we just want you to know that on behalf of NCSA, I respectfully request the favorable consideration and advancement of LB 1229.  (Exhibit C) Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  If you could give us your name, it would...


MARSHALL ADAMS:  Marshall Adams, Superintendent of Schools at Seward.  Sorry.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.


MIKE POWERS:  Good afternoon, Senator Bohlke, members of the committee.  My name is Mike Powers from Palmyra, Nebraska.


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I am a parent of a high ability learner.  I am also a member of the District OR-1 Board of Education.  District OR-1 is a Class C-II school serving 480 students in K-12.  Legislative Bill 1229 is an important and necessary bill.  With the recent adoption of Rule 3, requiring the identification of high ability learners, the amended requirements outlined by this bill are the logical next step and will help to round out Rule 3.  1 congratulate you on recognizing this need for clarity.  I serve on a policy committee and we are in the middle of developing our local policy to comply with Rule 3.  We are already asking the questions.  Once we identify these students, what then?  How do we serve them?  We want to provide the programs and this bill will actually help with our decision making process.  School districts are looking ahead to the need for programs.  Parents and students are ready.  School boards are ready.  The time is right for LB 1229.  It is a sad fact of education that schools do little more than is required, hence the need for specific requirements.  Boards have high expectations for their schools that often confront the reality of budget and staff limitations.  The funding component of this bill will be especially helpful for smaller districts such as mine, without a tradition of high ability learner programs.  The direction outlined in this bill will make my job easier, as a board member.  Our state has done a great job in education.  However high ability learners have been neglected far too long.  With LB 1229, we can close the gap in our services and help schools achieve their missions of meeting the needs of all students.  As a parent and a school board member, I urge the passage of LB 1229.  Thank you for your time.  (Exhibit D)


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  Are there any questions?  I see none.  Thank you.


MIKE POWERS:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  That will be the last of the proponents.  How many opponents will there be?  Any neutral testimony?


D'ANNE WELCH:  My name is D'Anne Welch and I'll sign in after I finish.  I wanted to talk to you about the problem with trying to both define high ability learners as a special education and not.  But I see that you already are aware of that problem and I trust you'll try to take care of


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it before anyone decides to challenge it in court.  Then I wanted to make a couple of comments in the neutral position also, because as you know, I am preoccupied with ethics and (laugh) naturally, I have a problem with strong public policy that would move special education children into the regular classroom while moving children of high ability out of the regular classroom.  Of course, that is not mandated or dictated by the laws, so we have to just try to do what we can with ethics.  I've heard several people make the argument today that if we don't provide an appropriate education for high ability learners, that they become behaviorally disordered.  I have a daughter who is 15 who is a high ability learner.  When she began school in Texas, after she moved to Nebraska, and now for the -last three years while she's in the Brownell Talbot School in Omaha, she has consistently scored in the 98th or 99th percentile nationally.  She has never been a behavioral problem.  She did get bored, that's true.  Boredom is a problem.  The teachers in the Omaha Public School District did try to help her to pass her time.  They came up with inventive ideas like peer tutoring.  Do you know what peer tutoring is, Senator Stuhr?  That's where one person who consistently makes A's gets to sit at a table with three other persons who consistently fail and they copy from the A paper.  I agree, high ability learners should have an entitlement to an appropriate education.  I believe all children in the world should have the right to education.  If I could wave a magic wand and create that reality, I would.  But I am preoccupied with the entitlement of special education students and if the state develops' a public policy that gives me an opportunity to challenge it in a court of.  law, I certainly will.  I'm working in that area right now anyway and (laugh) this looks pretty tempting.  Let's see.  I think that were the only comments that were made that I wanted to comment.  You know, as we learn, even children, even my severely retarded child, understand that you don't strike people in the face or grab their glasses or pull their hair.  When she did reach out and harm people, we were able to teach her by calming her and saying, you be gentle, you be gentle, you be gentle.  I mean, I had to say it three times but now, once that she starts to behave in a way that's inappropriate, all I have to do is say that phrase one time, now that she's 12 now.  So it took a long time.  Even severely retarded children can learn to behave properly and I'm pretty offended that anyone would suggest that we have


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to fund for high ability learners because if we don't, they're going to become BD special ed kids.  I mean, I think this idea needs to be questioned and I know educators tend to write something down and somebody else thinks it's a good idea and so they write it down.  Pretty soon, there's a mushrooming in the literature about this idea and then researchers come along and say, wow, this idea has been written about so often, it must be true.  That's not the kind of criteria that we should use when we're trying to discover truth and validity.  And I have no doubt that there are some children with behavioral disorder who are high ability learners and it may be that if they were appropriately educated, that that would distract them from their behavioral problems.  That may be true.  But to suggest that they should be entitled to something that an average ability learner would not be entitled to, you know, I have problems with that.  There's some ethical problems with that.  Average learners and special education children know they don't have the same opportunities to ...  the same resources in their community.  High ability learners can take advantage of educational opportunities like museums and theatres and you name it, that average learners might not comprehend and average learners can take advantage of things like soccer, and dance class, and using the public pool, that severely retarded children can't make use of.  What I'm saying is, the most disabled among us should be the first priority.  They should be, physically and legally, if you want to look at the district court and U.S.  Supreme Court cases.  They should be the first priority but (laugh) as a matter of fact, in the community the only place that was designed for their use is the special education self-contained classroom.  That's it.  And (laugh) if you're going to continue to develop public policies that are going to nip away at their entitlement, you...naturally, you would expect that the parents of those children would rise up and find a way to fight back.  And it's sad because we actually believe that all children should be entitled to free and appropriate education.  We don't limit our belief to our children.  We believe all children should be.  But our children are the ones that are protected by federal law.  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Mrs.  Welch, I didn't mean to imply that because you're a high ability learner, that you are behaviorally disordered.  I just said that my daughter


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taught some that were on both ends of the spectrum, not that ...  that is not what I meant to imply at all.


D'ANNE WELCH:  Okay.  Thank you.


JOHN HANSEN:  For the record, my name is John Hansen.  I'm the president of Nebraska Farmers Union and I appear before you today as their president and also our registered lobbyist.  In the past, Nebraska Farmers Union has supported the concept of this bill.  This is not a new concept.  it's been around for some time and we have generally supported doing kinds of things that we think would help meet the he education needs of all students.  But, at some point, and I guess that point came when the Nebraska Legislature chose to pass LB 806, there gets to be a need for those of us who represent the interests of rural education across the state of Nebraska, to do what approximates a reality check.  And the reality check is that, unfortunately, as a result of LB 806, those schools who are in the bottom of the end of the standard classification are not likely to get the amount of state education needs of financial support from the distribution formula to meet just basic needs.  And so, here we're looking at trying to deal with something that I would hope we would some day deal with, and yet we're not even meeting the basic needs of an awful lot of kids in rural Nebraska.  Dr.  Sally Herrin, who is our communication and education director for Nebraska Farmers Union, just got done doing a one-week artist-in-residence in southwest Nebraska.  She's a part of that program and the school that she went to is an excellent first-rate program and one of the things that that school is looking at doing in order to meet the double restrictions of both LB 1114 and the shortfall that they received in LB 806 is to contemplate getting rid of this ...  one of those luxuries like hot water.  And so here, we're looking at districts who not in a financial position to be able to even provide a lot of the basic needs of their kids and we're looking at spending approximately $6 million here to deal with this for gifted kids.  And I would also say that, as a parents of three gifted kids, we ...  as we think about our state education system, our kids came up through the Class I systems ...  Class I schools, went to a Class C sized, medium sized school, and then came to Lincoln and went through Lincoln High.  And all three of our children went through the gifted program in Lincoln High..  And, as a result of that, that was, by the way, a plus for


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me to make the decision to run for president of Farmers Union in 1990, so that we would have this program for our kids to be available to go through in Lincoln and felt that we were not getting those things that we wanted in the Class C school that we were in.  And, I guess the experience that we've had with was very mixed.  We had one who was a gunner and going to do well anyway; was a gunner, did well anyway; and went on and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude from Smith College; and, incidentally, after having gone through this whole process, was on "Jeopardy" this last fall and Alex Trebek said, Laura, by the way, you've from the snallest of the schools to medium-sized schools, to the largest high school in the state of Nebraska, which of those schools base now that you can look back at that, did you think best served your educational needs?  And Laura said, well, of the three different size schools that the one that actually did the best job of helping me learn at the rate that I needed to was the small country school and it most closely represents the ...  or resembles the Montessori system.  And I'm struck by the fact that we're, in my opinion, doing real harm to those smaller classrooms that are, in a lot of ways, best able to deal with gifted kids where we're able to take kids in our small Class I system and let them go forward at the rate that they're able.  And so that means that the kids that are more able are certainly in a position to go forward faster.  That's certainly an advantage..  And the kids who need additional help, get it.  And yet, I see us not reinforcing that concept even though we're moving towards smaller classrooms in recognition of the need to be able to do that.  And I'm struck, just by the lack of consistency in the whole system here, is that those schools that seem to do the best job and are the ones that we're picking on the most here.  And so, I would like to reevaluate our organization's position if and when the time comes that we adequately fund and meet the needs of all schools in the state of Nebraska, to meet their basic needs first.  With that, I conclude my remarks and be glad to answer any questions.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you very much.  Are there any questions?  I see none.  Thank you, sir.


JOHN HANSEN:  Thank you.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any more neutral testimony?  Senator


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SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Suttle and members, I'll be very brief.  Just wrote down, made a few notes listening to the testimony.  one was certainly ...  the question was asked, how many students in Nebraska will be identified.  Of course, we don't know.  We've heard the ranges nationally but the bill does limit this to ten percent of the population.  The reason we did that is some of the criticism that may come in looking that may be the attempt to identify more students than would be present in the district.  The...  listening to the last testimony, I think it goes to the point you were talking about, Senator Willhoft, that truly, the reason for the $6,000 bass amount was for those small schools.  We had talked to a number of them.  I talked to the superintendent in Benkelman and talked to the superintendent in Thedford, areas of the state where they're interested in getting a program going.  Their question was, will we, as NRCSA testified, will we be able to share those amounts that we receive?  And, yes, you know, they will.  So they can do some exciting things.  If you would take Arthur, Thedford, Tryon, $18,000, that would be a good base amount.  And so it was really an attempt to look that we recognize that a number of the larger districts actually have programs going.  But if we're talking about trying to get those present in some of our smaller schools, it was an attempt to direct some of that money so that would be possible.  So I guess it goes in direct opposite of what the last testifier, I think, was pointing out as a criticism of the bill, one which we were trying very hard to direct the money towards them.  And I don't think we heard any testimony from the large schools criticizing us for that.  You know, I think it shows that, generally among the population, there is a recognition that the state needs to move forward in this direction, certainly from the people that have testified.  And I think it would be a real shame if anything is turned into a small school-big school argument because, as I said, I think that it provides the money once the school students are identified.  It certainly meets the needs of the smaller schools.  From the smaller schools that I have heard from, they have been very supportive of the bill and looking forward to being able to do some exciting things to meeting the needs of students where there are no programs present today.


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SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Are there any further questions?  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  I just have one clarification.  These are actually going to be new funds then, that are appropriated from the General Fund?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  That's correct.


SENATOR STUHR:  And then the modifications in the Educational Innovation Fund just deal with accelerated and differential curriculum.  In that correct?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Differentiated, yes.


SENATOR STUHR:  All right.  Okay.  I just wanted to make sure because...


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And the one other, when I said Rule 10, I was incorrect as you may have heard other people say it's Rule 3, in looking at the guidelines on that criteria.  So, for the record, we should look at Rule 3.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Thank you.  That will end the hearing on LB 1229.  And we will go to 1240 at this time and I will hand it back over to Senator Bohlke.  Senator Elmer is here.