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North Dakota education funding debate comes into focus

Teachers and their advocates said a proposed funding increase for North Dakota’s public schools looks promising, but they hope lawmakers take it a step further.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s budget proposal calls for increasing the per-pupil spending rate by 4% in the first year of the biennium, and 3% in the second year.

Nick Archuleta, president of the teacher’s union North Dakota United, they are happy to see the funding language, but more is needed, so educators have the proper support to serve all students.

“North Dakota teachers embrace that responsibility, that challenge,” Archuleta stressed. “We need to do that job, and we’re happy to do that job, but we can’t do it with fewer resources.”

The union want to see an 8% funding increase in each of the next two years, with 75% of it dedicated to increasing teacher pay. The governor’s plan sets the required salary pool at 70%.

Last week, the American Federation of Teachers released a national poll, with nearly 70% of respondents wanting more spending on education. 

Separately, a member of the North Dakota Legislature has suggested prioritizing funding for so-called “school choice,” giving parents more flexibility to send their kids to private schools with state education dollars.

Archuleta feels North Dakota’s public school teachers have a strong history of carrying out a mission supported by parents.

“When we see outside groups coming into our state and saying, ‘Well, we got to create these wedge issues, we’ve got to drive down the favorability of K-12 education if we’re ever going to privatize it,’ — that’s exactly what we’re seeing — and they should know that parents aren’t buying it,” Archuleta contended.

The lawmaker behind the school vouchers approach argued cost is a huge barrier for parents who want to find an educational setting to meet the needs of their child.

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