School funding equity comes before addressing adequacy
In December of 2003, nine North Dakota public school districts brought suit against the state of North Dakota for inequitable and inadequate funding of elementary and secondary education. On Jan. 10, 2006, the nine lawsuit schools agreed to a sta...
In December of 2003, nine North Dakota public school districts brought suit against the state of North Dakota for inequitable and inadequate funding of elementary and secondary education. On Jan. 10, 2006, the nine lawsuit schools agreed to a stay in the litigation, and the Governor's Commission on Education Improvement was formed. Working tirelessly for the past 10 months, this group, composed of people from very dissimilar backgrounds, has now handed off a final draft proposal of a school funding formula to our lawmakers.
The development of the formula relied heavily on input from citizens, school board members, parents, school superintendents and a variety of others. The formula ensures a
2 percent increase for every school in 2007, with many schools getting a larger increase in order to bring all the schools onto an equal playing field. With a proposed $80 million influx from Gov. Hoeven's budget, equal educational opportunities for all the kids of North Dakota are possible.
Under the proposed formula, the quality of a child's education no longer will depend on whether they live in a district with a high property value or in a district with a low property value. In addition, the new formula addresses the financial manner in which to reach adequacy. Once the formula is passed, the commission will begin to determine what an adequate education in K-12 looks like. And more importantly, what it costs.
Determining and funding adequacy will take many months to accomplish, and likely will not be totally complete until near the 2009 legislative session. We will begin by deciding the skills with which we want our children to leave our public high schools - breaking down the skills needed after each grade, and more importantly, what we need to do when students do not have the skills necessary or when they are at risk.
But before that work can be done, we must achieve equity for all kids. The proposed formula can get us there. Working together across party, interest and district lines, we have developed and presented what we feel is the best plan to meet the educational needs of all of North Dakota's kids. We're confident North Dakota's legislators will support the new formula, and will continue to look for additional ways to fund education in the state.
In the event that the legislature is not able to come to agreement, the only option we have as litigant schools is to continue the lawsuit, as for now it is only under a stay.
Our goals are simple - to provide the best education possible to the kids of North Dakota through equity, then adequacy. We believe the passage of the proposed K-12 educational formula is the best bet for our kids.
Larson is a spokesman for the N.D. Kids Coalition. E-mail Warren.Larson@sendit.nodak.edu