The 66th North Dakota Legislative Assembly is at “Crossover,” which is a lot like halftime. Maroon 5 isn’t scheduled to play a show, but you do get this fancy, new edition of the North Dakota United Legislative Report, plus a special broadcast of our Legislature Update with NDU President Nick Archuleta and our director of public affairs, Tom Gerhardt!

Watch all of that, then let’s talk some legislative shop!

HB 1287 – “Alternative Teacher Certification Programs” Bill

Starting things off, HB 1287 is the bill that allows teachers to be licensed online through a vendor called the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence. We’ve discussed this bill before, but being that it’s Crossover, seems like as good of a time as any to update you on its progress. You’d expect me to tell you that the Legislature recognized right away that this would devalue the diplomas, research and hard work that all of our current teachers had to do in order to get licensed, right? You’d think they would have dismantled this bill, the first time they heard it?

They didn’t. The House Ed Committee gave it a “do pass” recommendation, and then the full House approved it, 74-19.

“It’s a business,” President Archuleta explained. “All the requirements are is that you have a canned curriculum that you take online. It’s all subject-area stuff. There’s nothing in there about classroom management. There’s nothing about adolescent psychology, about child psychology or pedagogy or any of that. And at the conclusion of one year, guess what? You get to go to a classroom! ESPB can’t even look at the tests they have to take because it’s proprietary. Where it’s in use across the country, it’s getting very, very poor grades, and we don’t want that here.”

“There were several amendments to this that made it a better bill, but it’s still not a good bill, so we’re going to continue to oppose this bill.”

HB 1332 – “Armed First Responder” Bill

HB 1332 would allow school districts to set up their own “armed first responder” program, and allow personnel to conceal-carry a firearm into their school. This bill has been amended to limit exactly who can be that “armed first responder,” including that they need to undergo serious amounts of training, and they “may not be directly responsible for the supervision of children at the time of an incident requiring an action by an armed first responder.” Seemingly, that would exclude teachers. And it passed the House, 77-15.

“We certainly understand what the proponents of this bill are trying to do,” President Archuleta said. “They’re trying to create safety in their schools, and that’s terrific. … What we would like to do is to have an all-of-the-above approach. First of all, invest in those areas of behavioral health and mental health, and get really good training for teachers and administrators and other students about when children are under stress. What are those stressors and what can we do about that? And not just there but also make these things available to the community as well.”

You’ll be hearing more about this bill as it makes its way through committee and a full Senate vote, in upcoming Legislative Updates.

HB 1346 – “Required Hours of School Instruction” Bill

Another bill we’re keeping an eye on is HB 1346, “relating to required number of hours of instruction by school districts and weather emergencies.” We’ve certainly seen our fair share of “weather emergencies” this year, so this is a timely subject that our members are very invested in what the ultimate outcome will be. So far, it’s past the House, by a vote of 86-5, and is on to the Senate.

There are lots of questions to be answered on this one. Primary among our concerns: time spent with students. “It has been brought up, but not very well addressed: Would this mean less contact time for students with their instructors?” President Archuleta asked. We’ll be keeping an eye on this, and telling you more in future NDU Legislative Updates.

HB 1347 – “Teacher Probationary Period” Bill

We may have mentioned this a time or 12, but HB 1347 triples the amount of time that newly hired teachers are kept on probation, from one year to three, and would make it much easier for early educators to be non-renewed and removed from their jobs. This went to a vote on President’s Day in the House, and passed, 59-34-1.

We’ll continue to fight this bill, into the Senate.

HB 1531 – “Community Expert” Bill

Oh, good. Another teaching licensure bill. What do they want to do now? Oh, they want to let “community experts” come in and teach hard-to-fill subject areas, with HB 1531. How do we attract more people into the teaching profession? Well, just hire anybody to come in part-time and teach little Joyce and Johnny some accounting skills, and problem solved! Right?

I don’t know. Seems a little far-fetched to me. But President Archuleta explains it better than I can.

“What these alternative-access bills do, it seems to me, they basically say ‘anybody can do your job’ if you’re a teacher,” Archuleta said. “Well that’s not true, because we know that there’s an art and science to teaching. … We don’t believe that this does anything to promote the profession and doesn’t do anything at all to drive people to become teachers.”

HCR 3016 – “Altering Names & Missions of Higher Ed Institutions in Constitution” Bill

Here’s a fun, little piece of business, by the way of a concurrent resolution (HCR 3016) to remove references in the state constitution to the names, locations, and missions of the institutions of higher education. This is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. “Clearly, this is a move to eliminate institutions of higher education across the state,” President Archuleta said. He recommends that the Legislature do a study on this issue, first. “Let’s make decisions based on data rather than conjecture.”

SCR 4004 – “Impacts of Violent and Disruptive Behavior in Schools” Resolution

If the proponents of HCR 3016 are looking for an example of taking the time to study an issue before going all-out, they could turn to SCR 4004. This resolution, brought forward by Sen. Erin Oban (35-Bismarck), would study “the impact of violent, disruptive, and inappropriate behavior within the educational environment perpetrated by students against other students, teachers, and other school personnel, and the need to implement a uniform reporting system.”

This resolution has already been adopted by voice vote in the Senate on Jan. 23, and next goes to the House Education Committee. North Dakota United stands firmly in support of this resolution, and we all hope to be part of the answer to the issue of school safety, for our students and for school staff. “This is not a North Dakota phenomenon, or a big school versus small school phenomenon, this is something that’s going on nationally,” said President Archuleta. “We’re seeing more and more students coming into school with more trauma, with less access to behavioral health services they desperately need.”

The Wrap-Up

Let’s wrap this Crossover Report up like it’s a Christmas present, and get it under some random tree out in the frozen tundra we call home, shall we?

SB 2052 —  “Relating to school district safety plans and levy authority for a school safety plan.” Every district should have a school safety plan that is inclusive of many different things that would ensure school safety. This goes to a hearing in the House Education Committee on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m., and NDU will be there to testify on behalf of this. Support.

SB 2025 — “Relating to the duty of the superintendent of public instruction to review the statewide education strategic vision; and provide reports to the legislative assembly and legislative management.” This goes to the House Education Committee on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., and NDU will also be testifying in favor of this, as well. Support.

SCR 4018 —  “ requesting the Legislative Management to consider studying the feasibility and desirability of implementing a paid family leave program structured to be beneficial to both families and businesses, including an analysis of how to make the program financially sound while being affordable for families and businesses; and a review of the data on usage rates from other states that have programs, which state agency would be best suited to administer the program, and policies required to ensure program success.” Great idea; family first! Support.

Well, hey. I’ve been Kelly Hagen, your NDU communications director, this whole time! And I will continue to be that guy, too. Let me know if you have questions or comments to make about our Legislative Reports by clicking my name in the sentence before the sentence before this one. And make sure to be in front of a computer, smart-phone or tablet screen sometime soon, and watch you some Legislative Update. I know I said “family first” a little while back there, but seriously, ignore your family for 15 minutes and join us.

Thanks for being ‘U, all of YOU!