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On March 30th, Governor Ricketts approved the Legislature’s 2016 budget, which includes a one-time $250,000 investment in the newly developed grant program for Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) programs. This grant program, administered by the Nebraska Department of Education, was established last session with 1% of lottery fund proceeds. This year’s investment will help grow ELO programs around the state so that more youth have out of school time learning opportunities that provide essential learning and youth development opportunities. With this one-time investment, the Legislature is allowing the Department to support catalyst-type projects illustrating the importance of ELOs powered by school-community partnerships and which explore the potential of these programs to support student growth and development across the state.

The 2016 Nebraska Robotics Expo was held at the Strategic Air & Space Museum on Saturday, February 20, 2016. The Expo represents a collaborative effort between the SPIRIT Project and the Nebraska 4-H Youth Development project, and FIRST® LEGO® League to create an outstanding robotics competition for about 1,000 Nebraska youth from across the state. The Expo included the CEENBoTTM Showcase, FIRST LEGO League events, sponsor booths, and museum exhibits. Visit http://neroboticsexpo.unl.edu/ to find out more about these robotics competitions and events.

On February 9th, Beyond School Bells joined several ELO stakeholders in providing testimony at a hearing of the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee in support of LB 1074, Senator Rick Kolowski’s bill to provide $1 million for the newly developed state grant program for ELO programs. This grant program was established by the Legislature last session, and will be launched later this year. Currently this program will be funded with Lottery proceeds. This bill aims to grow this investment so that more youth have the opportunity to participate in these important programs. This hearing provided the first opportunity for us to make the case for the need to invest in ELO programs with this important committee of our Unicameral. We will keep you posted as this bill moves through the Legislative process.

ESEA (Elementary and Seconday Education Act) was unveiled on November 30th. The Senate and House conferees adopted an education bill that preserves the integrity of funding for before-school, afterschool and summer learning 21st CCLC programs. This was a major victory for the afterschool field! Read more about the current legislation and it's present status.

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