We start this week’s regularly scheduled North Dakota United Legislative Report with President Nick Archuleta’s full statement in reaction to today’s release of the budget forecast for our state:

“The day broke beautifully over North Dakota today as Moody’s Analytics released the long anticipated revenue projections in a document titled, ‘North Dakota Tax Base Outlook,'” said Archuleta. “And the budgetary projections, which were announced to a joint session of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees this morning, were very encouraging.

“How good was the news? Well, we agree with Governor Doug Burgum’s assessment: ‘The upward movement from our November forecast leaves plenty of room to fund priorities such as increases in K-12 education, human services and team member salaries while making bold, wise, investments that will generate returns for current and future generations of North Dakotans.’

“This is, indeed, very good news for state employees whose agencies and institutions were hit hard by budget cuts. Those cuts caused them to forgo a salary increase for the past two years, while working harder than ever to sustain their families.

“For public school teachers and education support professionals, the revised budget projections will mean that the flat spending of the past two years can be reversed and needed investments made in K-12 public education.

“Public employees, whatever the job title, provide the vital services that the North Dakota citizenry expects and deserves. We appreciate the good news we received today and pledge to continue to work closely with legislators to identify investment opportunities in our important public services.”

For even more information and context on today’s news, check out the newest NDU Legislative Update broadcast on our Facebook Live channel:

 

Let’s get straight to the action, shall we?!

A Call to Action

Guess what’s back. Back again. HB 1347 is back. Tell a friend.

This is the bill that originally sought to increase the length of time that new educators are in “probation” after having been hired and can be dismissed without cause, from one years to three years, while also removing a lot of those teachers’ rights during that time, including to representation, to a hearing in front of the school board or to even being told as to why they were being fired.

“We were able to — and when I say ‘we,’ I mean all of you, who contacted the House Education Committee and flooded them with e-mails and said, ‘this is just patently unfair’ — they realized that they stripped that language out,” President Archuleta said, “and replaced it with the language that existed before. But they still increased the probationary period from one year — where it is currently — to three.”

A hearing is scheduled for this bill in front of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday morning. These are the members of the Senate Education Committee, and the districts they represent:

Senator Donald Schaible (31-Mott)

Sen. Robert O. Fors (19-Larimore)

Sen. Kyle Davison (41-Fargo)

Sen. Jay Elkin (36-Taylor)

Sen. Richard Marcellais (9-Belcourt)

Sen. Erin Oban (35-Bismarck)

Sen. David S. Rust (2-Tioga)

Remember how I told you to “tell a friend” earlier? I meant to tell your friendly neighborhood senator, if you live in one of those districts listed above, about how you feel about this bill by clicking on their name to visit their informational page on the Legislature’s website. This gets its first hearing by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 13, tomorrow, at 9 a.m. So talk to them before then, please and thank you. 🙏 😊

Guns in Schools & Public Gatherings Bills

HB 1206 would allow anyone who possesses a class 1 exempt license to carry a concealed weapon into a “public gathering,” which is classified as “an athletic or sporting event, a school, a church, and a publicly owned or operated building.”

“We don’t believe that there’s any reason to carry at, say, a high school football game, or at a concert choir, or in dormitories on our campuses or in classrooms,” President Archuleta said. “This is, I think, a bill that probably goes just a bit further than what the public of North Dakota has told us they want.” This will be heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. We oppose it, if that wasn’t clear.

And then there is HB 1332, which is the “Armed First Responder” bill, which is meant to primarily assist smaller, rural schools, at which law enforcement would have a difficult time responding to an incident at a school in a quick manner. These school districts could apply for permission to allow selected personnel already on school grounds to conceal carry, and to train them on how to respond in the event of an armed intruder. NDU is still opposed to this bill, primarily due to several unanswered questions, like whether parents would know who is the designated armed first responder in their children’s school, or which classifications of workers would be eligible to participate in the program.

“It seems unclear to us at this point, (and) we don’t want teachers to be the armed first responder in the time of an incident like that,” said Tom Gerhardt, NDU director of public affairs. “So we want to clear up that language, for sure, to make sure that teachers — God forbid something like that happens — are with their kids.

“Administrators and teachers are people who are in charge of students have something very, very important to do in the case of an emergency,” said President Archuleta. “So we do not want any of those folks ever to be designated as armed first responders.”

The Wrap-Up

HB 1470 — “Relating to family leave for state employees; and to provide for a legislative management study of state employee leave policies.” If we’re serious about recruiting and retaining quality employees into our public workforce, a great incentive to take these jobs and stay in them is the ability to take time off to care for a loved one. It’s certainly a concept worth studying. Support.

SB 2215 — “Relating to the creation of the kindergarten through grade twelve education coordination council.” This was passed unanimously in the Senate. Coordination is a good thing. Let’s do it! House Education Committee will hold a hearing today, March 12, at 10:00 a.m. Support.

HB 1287 — “Relating to initial teaching licenses for individuals completing alternative teacher certification program.” I think we’ve talked about this before. We don’t think it’s good practice to devalue the education, degrees, diplomas, research and hard work that our current teachers have had to do to get the jobs they have. The Internet is wonderful, we admit, but you shouldn’t be able to achieve certification to become a teacher through an online course. Senate Education Committee will hear this one today at 2:30 p.m. Oppose.

HB 1531 — “Relating to allowing individuals who do not have a teaching license to teach noncore subjects upon meeting certain criteria.” This is the “community expert” bill, which is meant to address hard-to-fill positions in smaller schools. We want to help out in this area, too, and think that the way to do that is to offer the right incentives for teachers to move into rural communities. They’ll pay back that investment made into attracting them into those jobs by bringing with them their energy, ideas, families and plugging the dollars they earn back into the community in which they live. Sounds better than just letting someone who really likes history to teach history, right? Senate Education Committee hears this one today at 3 p.m. Oppose.

And, we’re done. Thanks for reading this far, if you did. My name is Kelly Hagen, NDU communications director, and your name is something else. Probably. I can’t say for certain. See you next week!