It’s been a challenging year for North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler.
In March, the coronavirus pandemic consumed North Dakota, prompting closure of in-person education and upsetting the state educational system. It meant months of intense planning to ensure K-12 education continued unabated and generally uninterrupted. At the top of that process – along with Gov. Doug Burgum – has been Baesler.
Now, she is seeking another term, facing challenger Brandt Dick in a nonpolitical election on Nov. 3. Dick, as superintendent of Underwood Public Schools, has spent 26 years in education and vows to advocate for small, rural schools.
The pandemic came after Baesler was, in February, arrested for DUI – an indiscretion for which she apologized. We believe it’s time to move on and hope North Dakota voters feel the same.
Why does Baesler deserve another four years? Answer: The work she has done to put North Dakota K-12 education back on track during the pandemic, her efforts to travel the state and work with administrators and school children, and her vision and imagination for the future of education.
It’s also important for there to be continuity during the pandemic and the historic disruption that has accompanied it. Baesler should be elected for another four years.
During the pandemic, Baesler worked with the Department of Health and Burgum’s office to create guidelines for school reopening this fall. Through it all, she maintained they were simply guidelines, and urged that actual decisions be made locally, by school boards elected to represent their communities.
It was an important message and one that promoted collaboration rather than a stress-inducing and controversial mandate.
In a report by Forum News Service, Baesler said some highlights of her time in office include making the Department of Public Instruction more efficient and decreasing its operating budget, producing a savings of $1 million. She points to partnerships with legislators, which she said will bring benefits during the 2021 session of the Legislature.
As superintendent of public instruction, she heads a team of more than 80 employees and is tasked with the education of 121,000 K-12 students across the state. She has spearheaded a statewide response to unprecedented disorder. She has been active, has traveled the state and interacted not only with the public but with the children whose education she oversees.
If she wins another term, she can perhaps help teach students about the ills of drinking and driving.
Although North Dakota United – the state’s teachers union – is not endorsing candidates this year, it does offer a checklist of five issues it considers important in this race. Baesler received four positive checks; Dick received just one.
She is endorsed by the North Dakota AFL-CIO.
She also has shown refreshing instances of vision. In 2018, for example, after a visit to a school in South Dakota that emphasizes innovative teaching, she was moved by what she saw.
“When you see it, the teachers and the students involved, it’s exciting,” she said at the time.
All of this should matter to North Dakota voters, who should give Baesler another four years in office.
This endorsement represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.