About the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE)
History. Missionaries established the first Nebraska schools to assimilate Indians into white culture. The U.S. Army started the first schools for white people at Fort Atkinson (near present-day Fort Calhoun) in the 1820s. In 1855, the first Legislature of the Nebraska Territory adopted a free-school law, one year after the territory was established. Nebraska’s present public education system is based on the state constitution adopted in 1875. The state constitution directs the Legislature to offer free instruction in public schools for people between 5 and 21 years of age. School attendance is mandatory for children 6 to 18 years of age. Public schools also provide special education for children with disabilities.
Governance. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) is a constitutional agency that operates under the authority of an elected, nonpartisan board of education. A board-appointed commissioner oversees administration of the state school system.
Purpose. NDE employees carry out the mission of the agency on behalf of Nebraska students in public, private, and nonpublic school systems. NDE staff interacts with schools and institutions of higher education to develop, coordinate, and improve educational programs. Click on the following link for NDE’s mission, vision and values.
The work of the agency. Approximately 500 employees carry out the myriad duties assigned by state and federal statues and the policy direction of the State Board of Education. In broad terms, the work of NDE may be categorized into four main areas:
2) Assisting people with disabilities to join the workforce (Vocational Rehabilitation),
3) Adjudication of claims for disability benefits under Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (Disability Determination Section), and
4) Agency administration.
Education Services NDE provides a broad range of consultative and support services to public schools. Services are provided in areas such as:
• Adult program services,
• Curriculum, instruction and innovation,
• Data services,
• Early childhood,
• Education technology,
• Equity and instructional strategies,
• Federal programs,
• School accreditation
• Special education
• Statewide assessment
Approximately 180 NDE employees work in this area.
Disability Determination Services (DDS) The DDS determines whether Nebraskans are medically eligible to receive disability benefits under Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security disability program can be compared to a private insurance policy since workers obtain “coverage” by paying “premiums” in the form of the FICA deductions from their pay checks. Workers who have sufficient covered employment are eligible to receive benefits if they are no longer able to work because of injury or illness. SSI is a public assistance program in which payments are available based on a combination of disability and meeting a means test. Applications for benefits are taken at the Social Security field offices across the state and forwarded to the DDS office in Lincoln. DDS staff members obtain and evaluate medical and vocational documentation in order to make a decision on each applicant’s medical eligibility for benefits. Approximately 75 NDE employees work in this area.
Vocational Rehabilitation (Nebraska VR) Since 1921, the Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation program has helped people with disabilities join the workforce. Services are provided or arranged through an employment team and may include vocational evaluation, career planning, independent living, assistive technology, job training and placement. District offices are located in Grand Island, Kearney, Lincoln, Norfolk, North Platte, Omaha and Scottsbluff, with satellite offices in Columbus and South Sioux City. The agency receives approximately 20 percent of its funding from the state and 80 percent from the federal government. The goal of the program is to help people with disabilities achieve economic self-sufficiency including earnings at or above the full-time minimum wage equivalent with health benefits in competitive employment, self-employment and business enterprise employment. If economic self-sufficiency is not possible with the first job placement, Vocational Rehabilitation may continue to work with the person to help him/her retain or advance in employment. Vocational Rehabilitation staff work with students with disabilities as early as age 14. Through the Transition Partnership Initiative, educators, parents, students and Vocational Rehabilitation plan to assure that students with disabilities are prepared for employment after graduation. Vocational Rehabilitation provides services to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and refugees/asylees who have legal employment authorization documents. Nearly 220 NDE employees work in this area.
Agency Administration This facet of the agency’s work involves areas such as accounting, computer network services, human resources, internal finance support, legal services, and office services. Approximately 35 NDE employees work in this area.