I am happy to report we had a state trooper in education committee hearing room 1525 February 24, 2015. No senator engaged in angry questioning or hostility on this day.
A number of bills heard public testimony; highlights below:
LB 601 (link) is a bill to ensure school board members have no conflict of interest. No member of a school board or immediate family of a school board member shall be employed in any capacity with the school district which he or she serves as a board member.
A small-town Nebraskan testified in support of (No-conflict-of-interest) LB 601. That rural citizen expressed concern about retaliation for bringing supportive testimony to the capitol.
Opponents described common conflicts of interest yet testified there were no such issues.
As I listened, the mystery surrounding micro districts engaged in multi-million dollar projects crystallized. (link to column about JPAs and bonds) Current practices create wealth redistribution to the dominant faction.
LB 435 (link) bill proposes to create a task force to research class size and instructional time.
It is notable members suggested to participate in the proposed research would all benefit from system expansion. The content of this bill makes it appear as though it were drafted by the union.
Parents, students, effective curriculum and instructional analysis are absent from the proposed research project in LB 435.
Educator proponents in the hearing spoke of teacher collaboration, modular scheduling, innovation, etc.
I spoke in opposition to LB 435 recognizing the irrelevance of class size and time on task when curriculum and instruction are ineffective. See the 1994 research “Prisoners of Time” (link)
LB 617 (link)(student mastery of reading) Working to Improve Nebraska Schools Act. Students should be reading at grade level by third grade or be held back.
I spoke in support of (reading) LB 617 but with an amendment. I cited Gering, Nebraska’s success (video link) teaching all kindergärtners to read by Thanksgiving. I proposed to shift punishment for reading failure to where it rightly belongs. If 98% of students are not reading by the end of first grade, strip accreditation from the school or district. In addition, strip accreditation from the sending teacher preparation program as well.
My previous column (link) examined the Nebraska State Board of Education vote, 6-2, to oppose (reading) LB 617. The two State Board of Education members who voted in support of (student mastery of reading) LB 617, Flint and McPherson, are the only members I have independently been able to confirm are not endorsed by the union.
Update on (charter schools) LB 616, (link) has been killed again this year. “Omaha Senator Tanya Cook said she had concerns about accountability and transparency for taxpayer dollars.” (Martha Stoddard, Omaha.com 2/24/15) Senator Cook should hold those same concerns for Omaha Public Schools (OPS). Recently a parent turned to the American Civil Liberties Union for help when threatened by Dr. Evans, Superintendent of OPS. (video link) A family whose child was assaulted during recess is suing OPS. (Associated Press, Lincoln Journal Star 2/28/15) Former OPS Supt. John Mackiel received a supplemental retirement benefit of a million dollars in addition to his pension; a surprise to the OPS board. (link) The OPS school board was hard-pressed to find the funds, but succeeded. Meanwhile, student learning failure persists in OPS and across the state. (link)
All institutions and individuals in receipt of public funds should be transparent and held accountable.
Contact your state senator if you think parents/guardians should receive the dollars to properly educate their children and be held accountable for results through Nebraska Education Scholarships. (link)