Two lawmakers seek more for small schools
BISMARCK Two legislators representing rural districts are asking for changes in the bill that reforms school funding in North Dakota. But backers of the bill in its current form said the changes sought could throw a plan to equalize funding out o...
BISMARCK Two legislators representing rural districts are asking for changes in the bill that reforms school funding in North Dakota.
But backers of the bill in its current form said the changes sought could throw a plan to equalize funding out of whack.
Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Wimbledon, and Rep. Bob Hunskor, D-Newburg, said Senate Bill 2200 harms 57 small schools that would receive about $8,500 per school more than they are now. They want those schools to receive more to, as Hunskor put it, "tread water" until they can make plans to consolidate with another district or reorganize.
"We got kids out there deserving a good education," he said. "Why do we want to put these little schools in the predicament they're in?"
SB 2200 is the bill that arose from a pending out-of-court settlement between the state and the nine school districts that claim the current funding formula is unconstitutionally inequitable. It has already passed the Senate and had its hearing in the House Education Committee on Monday.
Those testifying on behalf of schools, teachers and state government praised the bill as one that will keep the state out of court. Of 10 changes the Senate made in the bill last month, seven improved it, said Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, chairman of the governor's Commission on Educational Improvement, which wrote the original bill after nearly a year of meetings. He and other bill supporters have asked the House to reverse three of the amendments, including one that changed how the formula treats school districts that receive oil money.
Dalrymple told Hunskor that to make further changes to benefit certain small schools with declining enrollment only puts off the inevitable. Rep. Gil Herbel, R-Grafton, told Hunskor that special assistance to the schools for whom Hunskor was advocating goes against the idea of creating an equitable formula.
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Rae Ann Kelsch, R-Mandan, said it was risky to start tweaking the formula in SB 2200 because "by taking each one of these little facets (and changing them), before you know it, we're back to where we started."
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.