Letter to the Editor

Is NSEA throwing its weight around?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dear Editor,

A Gazette story last week insinuated that the Nebraska State Education Association had "demanded" Gov. Pete Ricketts sign a proclamation honoring the Association's 150 years of service to children and public schools.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Like any other organization seeking a ceremonial gubernatorial proclamation, our staff filed the request in a timely manner, as required.

We made it clear that we were amenable to changes to the wording if requested. In every case, staff was kind and courteous to those in the governor's office. There was no demand. Yet the request was denied.

The governor's staff couched the denial as "standing up to a group that has been throwing its weight around in the political arena" and cited NSEA's opposition to LB65 as an example. LB65 would require third-grade students who cannot yet meet proficiency in reading to be held back.

What the governor's office hasn't said is that LB65:

* Has not been able to muster enough support to be voted out of the Legislature's Education Committee. It would take the unusual move of a vote on the floor of the Legislature to pull the bill from committee.

* Imposes an unfunded mandate to local schools to provide summer reading camps for third-grade students scoring below grade level.

The bill offers no funding support for such programs which translates to higher property taxes.

Most importantly, there is no evidence that holding students back to repeat a grade will speed or improve reading proficiency.

In fact, research suggests just the opposite holding a student back hurts their progress.

Increased instructional time, investments in early childhood education and other proven policies are the proven routes to proficient reading abilities.

Educators in Southwest Nebraska know what works in the classroom, and they know that every child learns at a different speed, and in a different manner. So yes, perhaps NSEA has been "throwing its weight around" in the defense of third-grade readers local control of schools, and property tax payers.

If it cost the organization a ceremonial piece of paper, it is worth the cost.

Sincerely,

Nancy Fulton

34-year 3rd grade teacher

NSEA President

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