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ND ed group talks about K-12's 'monumental' funding hike

FARGO -- The North Dakota Commission on Education met Monday in Devils Lake to discuss increased funding in what Sen. Tim Flakoll called a benchmark in the state's history.

FARGO -- The North Dakota Commission on Education met Monday in Devils Lake to discuss increased funding in what Sen. Tim Flakoll called a benchmark in the state's history.

The commission discussed how to distribute $300 million allocated for K-12 funding to help raise achievement and provide property tax relief across the state in the next two years.

"It's a monumental increase," Flakoll said, referring to funding which would be available for a variety of things. "There's nothing in the history of the state that's come close to it."

Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the commission chairman, said there's still a lot of work to be done in finalizing the recommendations.

"We've been talking about these things all year," Dalrymple said. "I think we're making progress."

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Commissioners discussed $200 million being allocated for property tax relief. Dalrymple said plans could reduce the average school district mill levy by 55 mills.

"It will be very significant for everybody, especially for districts who have had to have high mill levies in the past," Dalrymple said.

Flakoll added that could account for an estimated 30 percent reduction in property taxes statewide. A 200 percent increase -- $2 million -- was also proposed for the nine Regional Education Associations in the state. Also related to teachers, commissioners recommended a $1 million increase for state teacher mentoring programs.

"This would be the first time we've had significant funding for the mentoring program," Flakoll said. In light of rising energy costs, the commission also hopes to aid districts with a minimum increase of $5 million statewide for transportation costs.

As for students, the commission examined how to aid at-risk students - those who qualify for free or reduced meal programs in the state. A $10 million increase in funding for those students was proposed, which Flakoll said is the first time the state would directly address funding for at-risk students.

Commission members also approved a plan for a more rigorous curriculum in the state, Flakoll said.

"If we don't advance, other states will start pulling away from us," he added.

All these plans, if passed by the Legislature in January, could go into effect next July.

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"When we look at the long-term benefits for the state, there's nothing that comes above education in North Dakota," he said.

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The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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