Senators Seek to Eliminate Tenure for Professors, End Nebraska Inheritance Tax

Incentives for teachers to decline to retire also subject of bill.

The University of Nebraska’s Varner Hall is where the NU Board of Regents meets and where the NU president has an office. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

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LINCOLN — Bills to eliminate tenure protection for university professors in an effort to halt “indoctrination (of) leftist ideology,” and one to do away with Nebraska’s inheritance tax were among 37 proposals introduced during a snowy Monday at the State Capitol.

State Sen. Loren Lippincott of Central City, who introduced the tenure bill, said in an email that “higher education lacks a serious degree of accountability” because of tenure, which grants protection to professors after proving their competence, from being fired for disagreements with administrators or for controversial scholarly opinions.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the University of Nebraska system hinted that eliminating tenure could threaten recruitment and retention of faculty.

Lippincott said the tenure system protects “poorly performing professors” and those who “allow their students no wiggle room for disagreements with their espoused dogma.”

‘Woke ideology’

The senator wrote that “woke ideology” is being pushed at the University of Nebraska campuses.

” … As tax-paying citizens, we have a right to expect that our tax dollars will be used to educate and edify our students, not indoctrinate them with leftist ideology,” Lippincott said in an email.

His Legislative Bill 1064 has 11 co-sponsors.

The bill calls for tenure to replaced by “employee agreements” at state universities and colleges that require annual performance reviews, “minimum standards of good practice” and “procedures for dismissal for cause, program discontinuance, and financial exigency.”

Melissa Lee, a spokeswoman for the NU system, said officials there are reviewing Lippincott’s proposal.

“Our plans for the University of Nebraska to grow and compete will require us to hold all our faculty and staff to high levels of performance and accountability,” Lee said.

One University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor tweeted that there were so many problems with Lippincott’s proposal “that I hardly know where to begin.”

“Lippincott told a reporter that he wants to destroy tenure because he wants to punish professors for expressing opinions he doesn’t hold. Which is precisely why tenure and academic freedom exist,” wrote Ari Kohen, a UNL political science professor.

Bills to end or restrict tenure were introduced last year in Texas, North Dakota, Florida and Iowa. The proposal stalled in the Iowa legislature.

‘Double tax’

Elmwood Sen. Rob Clements would eliminate the state’s inheritance tax by 2028 via his LB 1067, which has 24 co-sponsors.

Nebraska is one of only five states that levy such a “death tax,” and eliminating it has become a prime target for tax cutters over the years and again in 2024.

Clements said the inheritance tax amounts to a “double tax,” since property taxes are already paid on land and residence. It encourages retirees to move out of Nebraska, he said, so their descendants don’t have to pay the tax.

He said that he knows of tax preparers who advise seniors nearing death to move out of the state.

Right now, immediate relatives, such as a parent, sibling or child, pay a 1% inheritance tax on property they receive in excess of $100,000. But the tax rate climbs to up to 15% for the most remote relatives, and less is exempt.

Nebraska counties have consistently defended the inheritance tax as a way to finance one-time capital improvement projects — such as bridges — and argue that if it goes away, a much more objectionable tax — property tax — will rise.

Another aspect of Clements’ proposal would have the state reimburse counties $35 a day for any state prisoners held at a county jail, unless the state is short of funds.

LB 1067 would allocate $3.9 million a year for the State Prisoner Reimbursement Act.

Incentives for teachers

Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz introduced two bills Monday to help address the state’s teacher shortage.

LB 1052 would allow teachers at public and private schools to obtain up to $300 per year in reimbursement for purchases of classroom supplies.

Walz, a former teacher, said it would be welcome help, especially for new teachers, who have to buy many of their own classroom supplies.

Another proposal, LB 1053, would give veteran teachers a bonus if they stay on a few more years.

The bill would provide up to five “extended-career retention grants” of $2,500 a year for such teachers who decline to retire.

Walz said part of Nebraska’s teacher shortage is because of the exodus of experienced teachers from the profession.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: info@nebraskaexaminer.com. Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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