Your opinion matters. You work on the front lines of public education and public services in the state of North Dakota. No one knows better than you do on what resources you need to do your job. North Dakota United amplifies your voice with the strength of more than 11,000 public educators and employees who are members of our union. By your association with ND United, your voice will be heard, by policymakers, legislators and elected officials, by students and parents, by school and workplace administrators, and by the public at large.
The quality public education and public services that our members provide to all our students and citizens is at the heart of what our union strives to do. Every position our union takes, every action we lobby behind is based on us all doing what’s right for the recruitment and retention of highly qualified public educators and employees.
united, we stand
It’s a fact of life: Every decision that affects public education and public services is a political decision.
That’s why North Dakota United has a comprehensive program to make sure our members’ voices are heard in political decisions on all levels—local, state and national.
Use the button below and fill out the form to get information from ND United on how you can help to Stand Up for Public Education & Public Service in North Dakota.
2023 Legislative session
North Dakota United is committed to keeping public dollars in public education. Many of you may be familiar with “school vouchers,” bills that are used to privatize education and send taxpayers’ dollars to non-public schools. While NDU has always supported a parent’s right to choose where they send their children to school, we also believe that we must keep public dollars in public schools so that teachers and students receive the resources they need.
House Bill 1532 would have given $10 million dollars in public money to private schools with no strings attached. The bill was a dangerous threat to public schools, rural communities, and services that depend on public funding. North Dakota United members sent over 57,000 emails to Senators and Representatives on this issue, which successfully flipped votes of legislators like Representative Anna Novak of Hazen, who cited a member email as the reason she switched to opposing HB 1532.
The final version of the bill narrowly passed out of the House by three votes and was sent to Governor Burgum, who vetoed HB 1532 after receiving almost 900 emails from NDU members urging him to do so. The House then sustained the veto and HB 1532 was finally defeated.
North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System’s (NDPERS) defined-benefit pension plan is a valuable recruiting tool for North Dakota job growth and provides stable retirement savings for our public workers. This defined-benefit plan provides a guaranteed monthly payment to retired public workers, allowing for financial stability and security to the employees and the communities in which they live. The plan is also a significant recruiting tool that keeps public employee salaries and benefits competitive.
Ensuring that NDPERS’ defined benefit pension plan stays in place is an issue we have been tracking and working on continually, while the Legislature has been ignoring it since 2011. Although we fought hard, we learned throughout this session that we lost this fight on election day. Members of the legislature disregarded the facts and chose to vote ideologically, based on numbers from a think-tank instead of an actuarial report provided by NDPERS.
Because of this, HB 1040 passed and will close the defined benefit pension plan to new employees. There were some changes made at the last minute and we will keep monitoring the situation. We will continue to keep the heat on legislators about their decision now and when the true cost becomes apparent during the next legislative session.
Senate Bill 2360 would have required every library worker to read every word in every book of a library’s collection, removing anything with so-called “obscene material”. The exorbitant fiscal note (over $300 million!) for this bill was determined by reviewing the number of additional positions our public libraries would need to hire to meet the expectations outlined in SB 2360. The bill also would have penalized any individual who displays “obscene material” in a library with a class B misdemeanor.
The Governor ultimately vetoed the bill after hearing from constituents, and the House ended up being the chamber to sustain the veto, as the Senate had voted to override. This would not have happened without our members speaking up and following the lead of the North Dakota Library Association.
Meanwhile, House Bill 1205 was signed by Governor Burgum. While this new law does not include a criminal penalty, it is poorly written, redundant legislation that puts Government in the way of local public library control and processes.
House Bill 1494 prevents stigmatization or penalization of a student for having an unpaid lunch debt. Practices like withholding meals, using lunch tokens, placing a child’s name on a list of those with lunch debt, or limiting participation in school activities are no longer allowed. This bill easily passed through both chambers with only one nay vote each and is now a law!
With more states passing universal free school meals legislation, North Dakota legislators followed suit by introducing HB 1491. The bill began as a $90 million dollar appropriation to cover all costs of school lunches, making them free of charge to public school students. After a series of amendments in the House Education committee, HB 1491 was whittled down to a mere $6 million dollar bill to cover costs of meals for students whose parents or guardians make less than 200% of federal poverty, which equates to $60,000. After passing 80 yea, 11 nay, 3 absent in the House, the bill failed in the Senate on a 23-24 vote: one vote short of passing.
After an incredible outpouring of messages to legislators from North Dakota United members and partners like the AFL-CIO, the final language of HB 1491 was inserted as an amendment to SB 2284 by Representative Schreiber-Beck and seven other members of the House Education Committee. Senate Bill 2284, a broad K-12 education funding bill, then passed through both chambers and is waiting to be signed into law with the amendment for school meals included!
Raises for Public Workers and Educators
While there were notable funding increases for public workers and educators, we still fell short of where our state needs to be and what we asked for at 8% and 8%. After this past election, we knew that getting necessary funding increases would be an uphill battle. K-12 funding ended with a 4% and 4% increase in the per pupil payment with an added 0.5% increase for special education funding. Additionally, section 11 of SB 2013 requires that 70% of the increased funding must go toward non-administrative salaries.
Public employees and higher education funding ended at 6% and 4%. While these are closer raises to what we asked for and what is needed, they are still not up to par with our current economic environment. We must continue to pay close attention to the actions of our elected officials as we head into another election season.
Additional Bills of Interest
Although the legislative session has ended, there are several things you can do to stay active and keep up the pressure heading into the 2025 legislative assembly. First, if you would like to stay involved and be prepared for the next legislative session, click the button below to continue standing for public education and public service.
Your legislators still represent you and your community. Maintain communication with them and make sure they know your positions on issues important to you; staying in their ear about their votes is a great way to remind them who they represent. You know more about the issues that impact you than they do!
Meanwhile, there will be a general election held in November of 2024. If we learned anything from this legislative assembly, it is that we need more advocates for public schools and public services representing us in the legislature, working to make North Dakota the best it can be. Talk to your network about running for office! If you or anyone you know is considering running, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help figure out next steps along the way to an election campaign.