The Department of Education Innovative Grant Fund and the Innovation Grant Program were created with the passage of Legislative Bill (LB) 519, effective August 30, 2015. This competitive grant program provides funding opportunities to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to support the development, expansion and investment in innovative best practices that improve:
- Education outcomes for early childhood, elementary, middle school or high school students;
- Transitions between any successive stages of education; or
- Transitions between education and the work force.
As provided in Nebraska Revised Statute (NRS) §79-1054, the State Board of Education establishes the Innovation Grant Program, with the Nebraska Department of Education administering the funds which consist of:
- Transfers pursuant to NRS §9-812 (State Lottery Operation Trust Fund and Nebraska Education Improvement Fund);
- Repayments of grant funds; and
- Interest payments received in the course of administering the fund.
The State Board of Education awarded grants to projects deemed sufficiently innovative, with a high chance of success and statewide significance. Grant recipients are required to generate evidence of the project’s effectiveness through a rigorous independent evaluation, culminating in the identification, validation, replication and potential “scale-up” of innovative best practices. Funded projects must have the potential to be both replicable and scalable, with priority consideration given to those:
- Serving “High Needs” students;
- Serving students attending “Needs Improvement” schools;
- Focusing on the tenets of Nebraska’s AQuESTT System; or
- Leveraging technology to support instructional practice and professional development.
The program is fiscally structured on a Reimbursement Payment basis, with grantees reimbursed after making project-related expenditures.
Funded projects must be annually evaluated and report progress toward stated goals, measurable objectives and targeted outcomes. Based on those reports, the State Board of Education will submit an Innovation Grant Program Annual Report to the Clerk of the Legislature by December 1st of each year. Grantees must also submit a Summative Evaluation of Progress Report to the State Board and Legislature’s Education Committee by July 1, 2019.