The Nebraska Legislature adjourned April 17 after debating and passing numerous higher-education bills. The Coordinating Commission offered testimony on 10 bills and monitored their progress throughout the session. The Commission also worked with several senators and their staff as they researched and drafted legislation.
Read a more detailed summary of the Legislature’s higher-ed bills in the Commission’s final Legislative Update of the 2014 session.
The Coordinating Commission has formally begun its search process for a new executive director.
The Commission is filling the vacancy left by Dr. Marshall Hill, who resigned in August 2013 to accept another higher-education position in Colorado. Since then, Dr. Carna Pfeil has served as the Commission’s interim executive director. Pfeil was associate director for finance and administration and has been with the Commission for more than 20 years.
Those interested in learning more about the executive director position and the search process should visit the Commission’s website.
The Coordinating Commission recently voted to fund four projects through a U.S. Department of Education grant program designed to improve K-12 teachers’ content knowledge and professional skills.
The Commission administers the Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grants for Nebraska. These grants are intended to help increase student achievement by providing educators with professional development activities to improve their knowledge and teaching skills.
The grants provide funds to partnerships established between Nebraska postsecondary institutions and high-need, low-income local education agencies (LEAs), most often school districts. The partners use the funds for specific projects pertaining to core academic subjects.
A full list and descriptions of the selected programs, as well as the funding they’ll receive, can be found on the Commission website. Programs will benefit teachers from school districts across the state.
An evaluation panel with members from Nebraska high schools and the State Department of Education met in December at the Commission office in Lincoln. Fifteen proposals were submitted by partnerships that involved three different institutions (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Nebraska Wesleyan University), Nebraska Educational Technology Association, and a variety of school districts and educational service units (ESUs). The Commission at its Jan. 23 meeting voted to approve the panel’s recommended projects to fund.
This was the largest number of proposals the Commission has received in more than a dozen years. Unfortunately, the funds available were reduced, primarily due to federal sequestration, forcing the panel to select only four projects out of a pool of many quality proposals. At this time, the total amount of funds available for awards in 2013-2014 is $294,145.
The Coordinating Commission offered testimony on 10 higher-education-related bills currently being considered by the State Legislature. Interim Executive Director Carna Pfeil spoke on behalf of the commission for five of the bills; the commission submitted testimony in letter form for the others. Below is a brief description of those bills, as well as a link to the commission’s submitted testimony.
- LB 779 – Neutral – Changes duties of CCPE relating to transfer-of-credit policies
- LB 781 – Neutral – Change a date relating to a community college comprehensive audit
- LB 787 – Proponent – Provide an income-tax deduction for loan principal payments on graduate degrees
- LB 826 – Proponent – Provide for a study relating to education incentives for high-need occupations
- LB 835 – Neutral – Extend a pilot project relating to college entrance exams (ACT)
- LB 1055 – Proponent – Provide for tuition-free credits for veterans and military personnel as prescribed
- LB 1069 – Proponent – Change provisions relating to private postsecondary career schools
- LB 1077 – Neutral – Adopt the Shared Responsibility for Access and Success Act (financial aid)
- LB 1103 – Proponent – Provide for a strategic planning process for education
- LB 1106 – Proponent – Change provisions relating to career academies
The Legislature is scheduled to finish its 60-day session on April 17.
The Coordinating Commission recently elected Colleen Adam of Hastings as its new chair and Carol Zink of Lincoln as its vice chair for the upcoming year.
Adam represents District 5 and has been a member of the Commission since 2003. Zink is an at-large commissioner and has been with the Commission since 2007.
The Coordinating Commission is governed by an 11-member board of commissioners. Six of the commissioners represent each of the state’s supreme court judicial districts; five are at-large members. Commissioners serve six-year terms.
Gov. Dave Heineman has appointed two new commissioners to the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education.
Lori Warner of South Sioux City will represent District 3, which covers northeast Nebraska. Dwayne Probyn of Papillion will be an at-large member of the commission.
Warner is president and CEO of the South Sioux City Area Chamber of Commerce. She held the same position with the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce from 2005 to 2012. Warner earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Peru State College.
Probyn is executive director of the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition’s “Dream !t Do !t” initiative. Prior to that, he was director of workforce development at Metro Community College in Omaha. Probyn earned his Bachelor of Science in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and his Master of Science in STEM from Bradley University.
The commission is governed by an 11-member board of commissioners. Six commissioners represent each of the state’s supreme court districts and five serve as at-large members. Commissioners serve six-year terms.
Gov. Heineman also reappointed two current members of the commission: Mary Lauritzen, an at-large member from West Point who has served on the commission since 2000; and Scott Wilson of Papillion, who has represented District 4 on the commission since 2009.
The Legislature still must confirm the governor’s appointments. Warner, Probyn, Lauritzen and Wilson will appear before the Legislature’s Education Commission Feb. 10 for their appointment hearings.
The commission’s District 1 seat, which covers Lancaster and Seward Counties, remains vacant after former Commissioner Riko Bishop was appointed to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, 1st District.
Those interested in serving as a member of the commission from District 1 can apply at the governor’s website.
Gary Timm has joined the Coordinating Commission as its new chief finance and administrative officer. Timm comes to the Commission from the Department of Insurance, where he worked for 15 years. Prior to that, Timm worked for the State Auditor’s Office.
Timm earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Chadron State College. He is both a Certified Public Account (CPA) and Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM).
Timm fills the vacancy left by Dr. Carna Pfeil, who took over as the Commission’s interim executive director in September. Pfeil was associate director for finance and administration and has been with the Commission for more than 20 years.
Pfeil took over for Dr. Marshall Hill, who resigned in August to accept a position in Colorado.
Pfeil will serve as interim executive director until the Commission hires a replacement for Hill. The Commission has submitted a budget deficit request to help pay for the hiring process, which will include a national search. The Legislature and Governor will consider the request during the current Legislative session, which began Jan. 8.