Unicam Gives Unanimous First-Round Approval To Education Package

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      Nebraska lawmakers have given unanimous first-round approval to an omnibus education bill, a collection of 23 bills packaged together in a single piece of legislation as the Education Committee’s priority for the session. 

       Most legislative committees have developed similar packages in an effort to pass more bills in the face of an on-going filibuster protesting of a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for individuals under 19

     The education bill, LB705, moved through the first round of debate on a 40-0 vote, following a series of votes that ultimately tacked on the 22 other bills. The package saw limited opposition on the floor Tuesday, as few lawmakers took issue with individual bills within the collection. 

    The combined bill covers a range of educational issues, such as Nebraska’s growing teacher shortage and increasing mental health resources.

.      The original LB705 distributes more than $24 million dollars in state lottery funds to various education sources, including college access efforts and opportunity grants. 

      Provisions from LB385 allocate up to $10 million for retainment grants for teachers who continue working in Nebraska. Teachers could get a $2,500 grant for their 2nd, 4th and 6th years of teaching. School administrators testified they often lose teachers between their second and fourth years. 

     Several bills within the package seek to reduce Nebraska’s growing teacher shortage. The state Dept of Education says unfilled teaching jobs across Nebraska this year jumped nearly 60% from last school year, from 482 vacancies at the start of the year to about 768 this year.

     Other bills aimed at the same issue and included in the package would establish alternative pathways for prospective teachers to obtain a certificate, eliminate the requirement for prospective teachers to pass the PRAXIS Test, and provide $1 million to tuition assistance for paraprofessionals looking to become teachers. 

    Another prohibits schools from suspending students in preschool through 2nd grade with an exception for bringing a deadly weapon to school. For all other incidents, it requires schools to provide an in-school alternative to suspension.

     Producing some debate was an amendment requiring schools to allow outside youth organizations  to recruit members in school once a year. Groups specifically discussed included the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, FFA, Big Brother and Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, and the Little League.

     Allowing the Boy Scouts to participate drew objections from some senators because of its history of sexual abuse, which has led the organization to agree to pay more than $2.4 billion dollar to over 80,000 victims.

       Supporters of the Boys Scouts said it now has one of the best child protection training programs of any organization.