In schools 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, legislators are often graded by a handful of bills 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, more than $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. Unfortunately, we fell woefully short on the modest efforts of Sen. JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks, to expand access to quality early childhood education that prepares our little ones for school and supports working families and employers in our communities.
At the local level, students and families face increasingly complex challenges. That’s why Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, a retired teacher, at the urging of a high school student, passed a bill directing every North Dakota public 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 the impacts of youth behavioral health needs and how those crises are often escalating into disruptive, aggressive, and sometimes violent behavior in classrooms. These serious issues make learning more difficult for students and teaching more difficult for educators, and we have a responsibility to be a partner with our others to address 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.