In schools all across the state, the final bell for this school year is ringing. As a former teacher, a mom, a legislator and a North Dakotan simply interested in an educated citizenry, I want to thank the people who dedicate their time and talents to educating and caring for our kids. Some days might seem like you have an impossibly hard job, but you are changing lives for the better, and you are appreciated.
Coming off another legislative session, as legislators, we’re often graded by a handful of bills – either the good ones or the bad ones – that make headlines. There are few bills and budgets we debate, however, that have more direct impacts on our communities and families than those involving K-12 education.
At the state level, the mechanics of funding school districts are complicated, but the realities of the state’s K-12 education budget are simple: every dollar we invest, reaching over $10,000 per student this coming biennium, contributes to the local programs, services and education professionals our kids deserve while providing direct property tax relief to taxpayers. This session, we seized opportunities to improve career and tech and workforce readiness for our older students but fell woefully short on the modest efforts of Sen. JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks, to expand access to quality early childhood education that both prepares our little ones for school and supports working families and employers in our communities.
- North Dakota lawmakers look to address disparities in K-12 funding
- ND bill would address behavioral health in schools
At the local level, the challenges our students and families are facing have grown increasingly complex. That’s why retired teacher and Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, at the urging of a high school student, passed a bill directing every North Dakota school building to designate a behavioral health resource coordinator, someone to receive and share information and resources with staff, students and families. In addition, I sponsored and passed a resolution requesting legislators study this interim the depth and impacts of the behavioral health needs of our children and how those crises are escalating into disruptive, aggressive and sometimes violent behavior in classrooms. These are serious issues that make learning more difficult for students and teaching more difficult for educators, and we have a responsibility to be a partner with many others in addressing it.
When it comes to funding our schools and facing these challenges, many mainstream, common sense Republicans joined every single Democratic-NPL legislator to vote in support. When it comes to our commitment to K-12 education, I’m especially proud to be a member of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL caucus that universally, unanimously and unapologetically upholds that commitment and invests in our kids, schools and communities.