Committee on Education

February 9, 1999


Page 100


SENATOR BOHLKE:  That's right.  And LB 813, which I am asking legal counsel to open on, but you can go ahead and run it, mainly because it's the technical bill, and I have no idea what it does.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  And here comes the department, BO we know it's a clean up.  Go ahead.


LB 813


TAMMY BARRY:  My name is Tammy Barry and I am the legal counsel for the Education Committee.  And I am here to introduce LB 813, which is the Department of Education's technical bill for this year.  I'm going to go over just a couple of things, and then leave it to the people from the...


SENATOR BOHLKE:  This is the best audience you've ever had for the technical bill.




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TAMMY BARRY:  Usually when I have to do this it's like 8 o'clock at night.  It's...  (laughs)




TAMMY BARRY:  I'll go over just a couple things and then leave most of it for the department.  The main changes in the bill are the renaming and modification of the mission of the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped, renaming the special education allowances as special receipts allowance, distinguishing the developmental delays from other disabilities, removing the provisions for Class II school districts to hold annual meetings, modifying the college admissions test criteria for the quality education incentives, replacing the current alternative teaching certificates with authority for the department to establish specific certificates without all of the statutory restrictions, and then there's several modifications of various reporting requirements and other minor modifications.  There are also several statutes that are outright repealed because they are no longer required either with the modifications in this bill or with things that have happened in the past.  The two areas that I probably would know the most about if you had any questions for me, would be the renaming of the special education allowance as the special receipts allowance, and also changing the college admission test criteria for the quality education incentives.  I'd be happy to answer any questions that anybody had, if they want to.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Oh, look at the hands go up.  Senator Raikes.


SENATOR RAIKES:  Well, I was just going to ask you if this technical bill would be at least as noncontroversial as last year's?  (laughter)


TAMMY BARRY:  I certainly hope BO.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  That was funny.


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SENATOR SUTTLE:  That ...  that's good.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  I had forgotten ...  oh, oh...


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  Could you explain section 17, modifying the college admissions test requirements.  I'm...  I'm...


TAMMY BARRY:  I certainly can.


SENATOR STUHR:  You know, is this a policy change, rather than clean-up?  Or...


TAMMY BARRY:  It is a slight policy change.  Then it's ...  any time that we do clean-up there's...  it changes something a little bit.  What this basically does is, it says that if you're a district that has more than sixty percent of your students taking the college standard admission test that you're using, which is generally going to be the ACT, then we're only going to top ...  count the top scorers that go that sixty percent level, so that if there are districts that have every student in the ...  every graduating senior in the district take the test, and so you would drop out their ...  the bottom 40 percent of their scores in that case.  And then it also says that the statewide average is going to based on those scores that are used, and so those bottom 40 percent of the scores in that district will not count in the statewide average, and also private school scores will not count in that statewide average.  It will just be the average of the students being counted for this purpose.


SENATOR STUHR:  Then why ...  can you explain why the change?


TAMMY BARRY:  On the averaging?


SENATOR STUHR:  I mean, why this proposed change?


TAMMY BARRY:  There were several districts that called and contacted our office over the interim that talked about that they had, like, a ...  they said that 100 percent of their students taking the test or somewhere between 60 and 100 percent of the students taking the test.  I believe that the, if I remember correctly, the average is actually like 71 percent of the students in a district take the test.  But


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some districts felt like they were treated unfairly because they had more or less than the 60 percent taking it.  This also uses the highest score rather than the most recent.


SENATOR STUHR:  Would you explain that again please?


TAMMY BARRY:  This change also makes it so that you use the highest score for a student rather than the most recent score, so that if a student retakes the test and doesn't do as well the second time...




TAMMY BARRY:  ...  you can count the highest score.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  I ...  follow up on that, Tammy, that was part of (LB)806, was it not?  Or what ...  was ...  during that discussion.


TAMMY BARRY:  No, (LB)1228.  Last year.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Oh, was it?  It was 12 ...  I remember that whole discussion when we had that about who would be counted, and who wouldn't, and how many, and what average, and ...  this is just tweaking it a little, not really changing it that much?


TAMMY BARRY:  Basically.




TAMMY BARRY:  It's reducing the number of students that will be counted in the averages somewhat.  And it is ...  and like I said, it's taking those students that you don't count in the averages for the local systems also out of the statewide average, which will raise that statewide average slightly.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Yes, it will.  It will, it will.  Any other questions?  I see none.


BRIAN HALSTEAD:  Good evening, Senator Bohlke, and members of the Education Committee.  For the record, my name is Brian Halstead.  I'm with the Department of Education.  I


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have passed out to you a technical amendment to the technical amendment bill (Exhibit T).




BRIAN HALSTEAD:  As we were drafting this in the latter stages of January, we overlooked a couple of things when it went back up to bill drafting.  The first one reinstates the word "delays".  For whatever reason, bill drafters dropped that word and it should still be in there.  "developmental delay" should still be listed.  There's an extra sentence included in section 17.  There were two ways of doing the statewide averaging, and after discussion with legal counsel we agreed that the last sentence in the new language should be there, and we forgot to strike out the first sentence that we had started with.  And the last one just deletes the word "section", that reference to specific section in the Special Education Act.  We inserted the term "The Special Education Act".  As the legal counsel pointed out, most of this is technical.  The changes that were made to section 17 were done in response to a number of concerns that were raised by school districts, primarily those that had a large percentage of their graduating seniors take the test, and they thought they were being penalized for that.  And in response, they were faced with the quandary, okay, so do I tell my students not to take the ACT, which they didn't feel would be the ethical way of dealing with it.  We do include in this bill the outright repeal of some statutes that remain on the books that deal with the School for the Deaf.  Those needed to be on the books until we finally finished out with that last September.  We also ...  the state board is undertaking a project with our Special Populations Office and ESU 4 for the operations of the Nebraska Center for the Visually Handicapped to make that more of an outreach program instead of a residential school.  So, some of the changes you're going to see in this bill deal with renaming the school, giving it the extra authority outside from just a residential school and meeting the needs of the visually impaired on a statewide basis instead of just at a residential school placement.  Some of the other changes in special education eliminate old language that has been in the statutes about reports that are no longer needed, also language about stuff that needed to be done in '92, '93, '94, and '95.  Those years have come and gone, so we're striking that language.  And again, we do have the one


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specific one that seems to draw the controversy every year.  And I know this was in the technical amendment bill last year, but Senator Chambers objected to it.  We still would like to get out of the statute the specific reference to where the inspection sticker on a bus should be placed, because sometimes that does obstruct the driver's view of the rearview windshield.  But last year, in our technical amendment bill, Senator Chambers had some concerns about the bill becoming larger than it was, and that amendment didn't make it.  We'd still like to get that specific thing out of the statute.  Other than that, I'd be more than happy to answer questions.  Don Anderson from our Special Populations Office and Russ Inbody from School Finance are here if there are questions you have of them.


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


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  This is a ...  section 17, that has to do with the quality education incentives...  I'm trying to read here...  says that scores that are above the state board average, the highest scores will be used.  What?  What can you tell me about that?  I don't need to read to the committee, but how...


BRIAN HALSTEAD:  Well, a couple things, Senator...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Is that going to solve the problems that I heard about all summer?  People coming to me saying that this is a good school, we have the best students in the state...


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Were you here when Tammy opened?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  No, no I just wasn't listening.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  Okey-dokey.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  But how is it going to solve that.


BRIAN HALSTEAD:  Well, I don't know that it's going to solve all of the concerns that were raise, Senator Wickersham.  What it does do is, number one, it clarifies, first of all,


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how the local system is going to determine their average in the sense of it provides more specific language.  If they have 60 percent of their students, or more than 60 percent, take one of the particular tests, they can use as many students to get to the 60 percent and after that they don't have to continue to add more test scores to that.  Again, that gets back to that first issue of do we penalize the district because all of the students take the college admission test.  The second thing it does, it does allow them to use the highest score.  When the (LB)1228 was debated last year, ACT was basically telling you, well, the most recent test is genuinely when most students get their highest score.  That's not absolutely true in all cases, and there were a number of schools that pointed that out to the department when they applied.  We allowed them to appeal that, and if they could show us, we made that change.  But here we're making it to say highest.  And the third thing is to define that the statewide average is based on the scores we're actually counting and comparing as compared to the whole statewide average.  In (LB)1228, it just said the statewide average for the college admission test.  It didn't differentiate between public and private because there are private students that take it.  It didn't differentiate because of some students who, if you pulled them out like we would with more than 60 percent.  So, that's what that's attempting to do.  Does it address every concern that was raised about the ACT and that?  No, it doesn't.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other questions?  I see none.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any other proponents for the technical clean-up bill?  Any opponents?  Any neutral?


MARILYN MEERKATZ:  Sorry.  Senator Bohlke, members of the Education Committee, I am Marilyn Meerkatz.  I'm the executive director for Class I's United.  What I have is basically a question regarding...  it's at the top of page 68 on (LB)813, and it's talking about Class I requests to exceed their budget authority.  And this adds language that requires them to breakdown expenditures for special education, regular education, and for special grant funds.  I understand the need for special education because that would be a part of the property tax request.  I don't...  I'm


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not sure why the special grant funds would have to be included in that request we see there.  I'm not sure whether or not the Class I would always be aware of what the special grant funds would be at the time they would have to make their request.  So, I just ask that you would consider that while you're thinking about this technical amendment, some of those are concerns that should be addressed.


SENATOR SUTTLE:  Any questions?  I see none.  Thank you for your input.




SENATOR SUTTLE:  Anybody else in a neutral position?  If not, that ends the hearing on (LB)813 unless the counsel wants to close.