LINCOLN–The Appropriations Committee had its hands full again Tuesday with more funding requests for Nebraska education.
The committee considered two bills, LB270 and LB465, that call for funding for technology education and after-school and out-of-school programs.
LB270, introduced by Sen. Rick Kolowski of Omaha, would appropriate $750,000 a year to the Department of Education for the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant Program Act.
The Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant Program Act passed in 2015 and promotes after-school and out-of-school education programs for high-need school districts.
Jeff Cole, associate vice president of School-Community Partnerships, was on hand to support this funding.
Cole said the bill is important because it provides the funding needed for Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) for Nebraska’s youth.
“ELO programs can, and indeed are, providing an important platform for inspiring Nebraska youth to be the creative problem solvers and STEM innovators that the future economy demands,” Cole said.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, four of the areas of study Cole emphasizes for ELO programs.
Kolowski said ELOs are not only important for kids, but also for parents. He said the programs help families by keeping kids busy with positive things like education or community involvement.
“I wish I had a dozen parents here to also testify, but they’re all working,” Kolowski said.
“That’s why we need this program.”
LB465, introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, would appropriate $500,000 each year to the Department of Education for the Nebraska Information Technology Initiative.
The initiative focuses on a partnership with the Department of Education and technology companies like Microsoft. This partnership has helped high school students gain certification in Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint.
Darci Karr, a business technology teacher at Hastings Senior High School, teaches these certification courses for her students. Karr says Microsoft certification not only helps students become knowledgeable about computers, but it also gives them experience they need to apply for jobs or colleges.
Shawna Garland, a teacher at Bruning-Davenport High School, said she can still teach these computer classes and administer certification tests without funding for the initiative, but the tests would cost about $85 per exam for the students.
Garland said after testing became free with this initiative, student participation rose from about 30 percent in her school, to 100 percent.
Watermeier said funding for the initiative is important to Nebraska’s future. He said if you invest in the workforce, the jobs will come find the workforce.