(1) The State Board of Education shall establish a competitive innovation grant program with funding from the Nebraska Education Improvement Fund pursuant to section 9-812. Grantees shall be a school district, an educational service unit, or a combination of entities that includes at least one school district or educational service unit. For grantees that consist of a combination of entities, a participating school district or educational service unit shall be designated to act as the fiscal agent and administer the program funded by the grant. The state board shall only award grants pursuant to applications that the state board deems to be sufficiently innovative and to have a high chance of success.
(2) An application for a grant pursuant to subsection (1) of this section shall describe:
(a) Specific measurable objectives for improving education outcomes for early childhood students, elementary students, middle school students, or high school students or for improving the transitions between any successive stages of education or between education and the workforce;
(b) The method for annually evaluating progress toward a measurable objective, with a summative evaluation of progress submitted to the state board and electronically to the Education Committee of the Legislature on or before July 1, 2019;
(c) The potential for the project to be both scalable and replicable; and
(d) Any cost savings that could be achieved by reductions in other programs if the funded program is successful.
(3) Based on evaluations received on or before July 1, 2019, for each grant, the State Board of Education shall recommend the grant project as:
(a) Representing a best practice;
(b) A model for a state-supported program; or
(c) A local issue for further study.
(4) On or before December 1, 2017, and on or before December 1 of each year thereafter, the state board shall electronically submit a report to the Clerk of the Legislature on all such grants, including, but not limited to, the results of the evaluations for each grant. The state board may adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to carry out this section, including, but not limited to, application procedures, selection procedures, and annual evaluation reporting procedures.
(5) The Department of Education Innovative Grant Fund is created. The fund shall be administered by the State Department of Education and shall consist of transfers pursuant to section 9-812, repayments of grant funds, and interest payments received in the course of administering this section. The fund shall be used to carry out this section. Any money in the fund available for investment shall be invested by the state investment officer pursuant to the Nebraska Capital Expansion Act and the Nebraska State Funds Investment Act.