Forum Editorial: North Dakota should act now to address low teacher morale, resignations

The wave of teacher resignations in Fargo Public Schools and elsewhere is a warning sign. Leaders should examine the causes of low teacher morale and address them to avoid erosion of our critical public education system.

Editorial FSA

The pressures on public school teachers keep growing. So do troubling signs of a looming teacher shortage . The Fargo Public Schools last year saw roughly twice the usual number of teacher resignations.

Surveys of teachers provide further warning that more and more teachers are considering leaving the profession, which has struggled along with students and parents with remote schooling during the pandemic.

Resignations and other signs of low teacher morale are flashing red warning lights.

This is a multifaceted problem and will require a multifaceted solution. Most obviously, it will require paying teachers more. But solving the problem of teacher burnout, keeping teachers in the classroom, and attracting talented people to the profession will require more than just that.

This is a looming crisis and demands attention. We can’t afford to keep putting off addressing this festering problem. It’s too late to launch an interim legislative study. So Gov. Doug Burgum and Kirsten Baesler, the superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, should assemble a task force and charge members with drafting proposals that can be presented to the 2023 session of the North Dakota Legislature.


Membership of the task force should be diverse and include representatives of key stakeholder groups: teachers, administrators, school boards and legislators. Task force members should examine ways to reduce classroom sizes and ways to demonstrate teachers and education are truly valued in this state.

And they should listen to teachers’ advocates like Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, which represents teachers, and his counterpart Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota.

Active legislative involvement is crucial, because the state provides most of the funding for public elementary and secondary education. Because of that, in an effort to restrain local property taxes, legislators have imposed restrictions on school district spending that make it difficult to raise teacher salaries.

School boards, including the Fargo School Board, have discussed the difficulties in raising teachers’ compensation. But they are hampered by state law. This is a state challenge, facing every school district, and requires state attention from both the executive and legislative branches.

Money isn’t the only solution to the problems facing teachers. Legislators and some school boards have meddled with curriculum, imposing restrictions like a ban on teaching critical race theory, which isn’t even taught in our public schools, needlessly dragging educators into divisive culture wars.

Intrusive parents who badger teachers are a major source of frustration and one of the biggest reasons teachers are quitting. So overly involved “helicopter parents” should look at themselves in a mirror and ask if their conduct is helpful or corrosive.

The state has an important role to play in helping to finance public education, but situations vary among urban and rural districts, so local school boards and administrators also will be an important part of solving these problems.

Nothing is more important than educating our children. North Dakota has invested wisely in many forms of physical infrastructure, including roads and bridges and water projects. All are essential.


But so is educating and training our children, the essential human infrastructure to keep our state moving forward. We neglect public education at our peril. The time to act is now.

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