A new school year begins again. Every year the Legislature enacts statutes making changes to how schools function, thus affecting the overall experience of students. As a member of the Education Committee, I have taken note of the seeming absence of average parents and citizens in the process.

The testimony at our bill hearings is usually from lobbyists representing the interests of school administrators and teachers concerned about the operation of public education. We also hear from special interest groups who want to latch onto some of the tax dollars intended for public education. Occasionally, we will get testimony from the higher education establishment coming down from their ivory towers bearing their newest theories and studies.

As parents, we have all experienced the latest trends, from outcome-based education to “let’s give them a computer so they don’t have to think” and everything in between. Parents who have been successful at getting their kids through school understand that what worked a century ago still works today. It is evident that having children memorize the alphabet, teaching them phonics and grammar, and instilling the love of reading in them opens their doorway to all of the world’s knowledge. If you were lucky, your student attended a school where the administration allowed the teachers to follow that same proven route and, in the process, a productive citizen emerged knowing how to think instead of what to think.

But still we seek the theoretical method that will achieve an easier path to the same outcome without the necessity of instilling the attributes of hard work and discipline in a student that common sense tells us are requirements to succeed.

New statutes affecting K-12 public education:

» LB 390 addresses school resource officers, police or security guards in our schools. Schools are required to create a memorandum of understanding with the law enforcement or security agency providing the officer. The memorandum outlines necessary training, procedures as to when a student is referred to law enforcement for prosecution for a crime, recordkeeping, understanding behavior due to a student’s special needs and notifying a parent when their child is involved. Overall, I supported the legislation’s goal to have everyone — including administration, teachers, parents, local police and the community as a whole -— understand what is expected of a police officer walking the halls of our schools. I did have some concerns about the social engineering aspects within the bill.

» LB 399 updates the American civics and social studies requirements that school districts must teach in our schools. Most of you probably did not realize that school boards must have an American Civics subcommittee comprised of three members whose duty each school year is to review and approve the school’s social studies curriculum to ensure it follows the statutory requirements in state law. In the past, it was mostly ignored by school districts. At best, a committee was created, but never actually met. A new requirement in LB 399 directs the committee to hold at least two public meetings a year and to accept public comment, ensure that curriculum approved by the committee is made readily accessible to the public and, for the first time, assure that an assessment is created to measure a student’s mastery of the social studies standards.

Presently, the Nebraska Department of Education is updating its social studies standards to reflect state statute. But in all endeavors in education, social engineering rears its ugly head, and there are those advocating a distorted view of history with the goal of emphasizing a diverse array of public figures and events in lieu of the greater relevance of historical accomplishment. Public comment on the standards is accepted. You may review them and comment to the State Education Board if you have concerns.

» LB 675 includes the state’s budgetary requirement for public school funding. In the past, the state has reduced school aid funding in lieu of other spending “priorities,” thus shifting the cost of public schools to the property taxpayer. This biennium budget, the Education Committee resisted attempts to cut and kept them to a minimum. State aid increased by $65 million this year to $1.065 billion.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

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