Lawmakers on Thursday gave first-round approval to a bill to address the teacher shortage in Nebraska schools.
LB1218, introduced by the education committee, would provide $1,000 in loan forgiveness to student teachers under the Attracting Excellence in Teaching program. An individual would need to provide services for a full academic semester at a public or private school and meet certain requirements to qualify.
Fremont Sen. Committee chair Lynne Walz said the change and others in a committee amendment would help more teachers enter the profession.
“Our teacher shortage is a serious problem, especially in rural areas, but persists across the state,” she said. “We have to do something to help solve this problem.”
The committee’s amendment, passed 38-0, replaced the bill with amended provisions of LB1218 and LB945, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn.
Under Linehan’s proposal, the state Department of Education would provide qualified teachers with $5,000 a year in loan repayment assistance for up to five years.
To be eligible for aid, an individual must be a Nebraska resident teaching full-time in a public or private school or performing dual-credit teaching duties for public or private school students while employed full-time. full at a public or private nonprofit college or university in Nebraska.
The total amount of loan repayment assistance could not exceed $5 million in a fiscal year.
The amendment would allow a teacher from another state to demonstrate eligibility for a Nebraska teaching certificate or license if they hold a similar certificate or license in that state.
It would also require the State Board of Education to authorize the issuance of a license or certificate to an applicant who has been offered employment to teach, administer, or provide special services by a public, private, denominational or parish of Nebraska.
Currently, teacher candidates must demonstrate basic reading, writing, and math skills through successful work experience or by passing an examination designated by the State Board of Education.
Walz said students must also pass this exam, the Core Praxis, before enrolling in a Nebraska teacher education program at any of Nebraska’s post-secondary institutions.
Under the amendment, the State Board of Education could not require a statewide exam as a core competency-related admission requirement when approving Nebraska teacher education programs.
The amendment would allow teachers to demonstrate basic skills before certification by taking a board-designated exam and correcting any shortcomings by retaking the failed portion or earning a minimum or higher grade in college courses related to the shortcoming. They could also demonstrate their competence through their experience as an educator in another state.
Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman introduced an amendment, passed 31-1, that removed proposed changes related to core competencies, saying it would be “inappropriate” to certify teachers if they do not pass the Praxis core.
Walz said she disagreed with Erdman that a single standardized test can determine whether a teacher candidate is prepared for the classroom, but she supported his amendment so that the other changes proposed in the bill can move forward.
After passing the amendments, senators voted 39-0 to advance LB1218 to select the file.