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Education issues worry Grand Forks lawmakers, residents

The future of education in North Dakota, from preschool to college, was on the minds of Grand Forks residents attending Saturday's legislative forum.

The future of education in North Dakota, from preschool to college, was on the minds of Grand Forks residents attending Saturday's legislative forum.

Worries over legislation costing college and universities accreditation were highlighted by state lawmakers and community members.

"The university situation is a dire one," said Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, referring to the effects a resolution and some bills would have if passed. "You do not want the legislature making policy for higher education."

House Resolution 3047, authored by Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, seeks a vote on a constitutional amendment to abolish the State Board of Higher Education and replace it with a department of education.

Resident Gerry Nies agreed with Glassheim, saying he feared state universities and colleges would lose accreditation, meaning their diplomas might not be recognized as legitimate.


"Last session, the legislature played chicken with the NCAA; please don't play chicken with our accreditation," Nies said of the Carlson-led effort to keep UND's Fighting Sioux nickname in spite of NCAA penalties.

Lawmakers commenting on the issue agreed with Nies' conclusion.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, who serves on the House's Education Committee, said when the concern and information regarding accreditation was presented to the committee "it was not taken seriously."

The resolution was passed in the House and will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday.

K-12 funding

Worry over education's future in North Dakota also was expressed by K-12 officials.

Superintendent of Grand Forks Public Schools Larry Nybladh voiced his concerns with the state's current funding formulas for school districts.

Since 2009, the state has used fall enrollment from the previous year to determine funding amounts for schools. After 16 years of decline in enrollment, Nybladh said the Grand Forks school district recorded 223 new students for the 2012-2013 school year.


Because the funding was based on the previous year's enrollment, the school system has missed out on about $1 million in state aid it would have received if the 223 were included, according to Nybladh.

"In one respect, 220 new students is good news," said Rep. Mark Owens, R-Grand Forks. "In another respect, the education system is straining under it."

A bill that could have provided a step toward securing more state aid for growing schools such as Grand Forks failed to pass in the House last month.

HB 1237 would have allowed district superintendents to request more state aid if enrollment numbers reflected a 25-student or more increase over the district's average daily membership.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to bjewett@gfherald.com .

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