ND grant to Utah university questioned

Julie Reiten, Grand Forks

Most people in North Dakota know that we have a very worrisome teacher shortage in the state, and that the teaching programs at our universities are working on ways to recruit more future teachers. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) is also working on this issue. However, recently I was deeply saddened to learn that hundreds of thousands of dollars were awarded to Western Governors University (an online university located in Utah) when it could have been awarded to one of our own teaching colleges within the state of ND.

Within the past year, three paraprofessional-to-teacher pathway type programs have been funded by NDDPI, using ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) dollars, ranging from $575,000-$750,000, to assist with the statewide teacher shortage. These programs allow the teacher candidate to remain within their own ND communities working within their assigned schools while completing the requirements to obtain a teaching degree.

In late 2022, the NDDPI announced to ND universities that they would be calling for a 4th round of proposals for a secondary education para-to-teacher program in the new year. These universities, which include 11 teacher education programs, were told to wait for more information on when proposals would be accepted. Instead, on January 10th, NDDPI, and the ND Governor’s office, announced they partnered with Western Governors University and had awarded the ESSER dollars to a college outside of North Dakota. It is absurd that both NDDPI and the Governor’s office didn’t even provide an opportunity for our own ND teaching colleges to submit proposals and gave the money to an out of state university instead.

Essentially, our state decided to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to an out-of-state university, and now those paras will eventually obtain a teaching degree from the state of Utah, instead of from one of our stellar in-state universities. This money would be much better spent in North Dakota.


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