Legislators call for change to K-12 education funding formula, restoration of cuts to Native American school districts

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Senators Richard Marcellais (D-Belcourt) and Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) and Representative Tracy Boe (D-Mylo) today called for bipartisanship in reconfiguring the state K-12 education formula in HB 1319. Changes recently made to the legislation’s funding formula by the North Dakota House would reduce funding for school districts in Native American communities around the state by millions of dollars in the next biennium.

“While we are strongly supportive of the vast majority of HB 1319, the cuts to funding for schools serving places like Belcourt must be restored,” Marcellais said. “We intend to work on a bipartisan basis to make sure we right this wrong.”

Prior to the legislature’s crossover break, the House Appropriations Committee amended the K-12 funding formula in HB 1319. Specifically, the amendment mandated the use of 100 percent of the state average tax base per weighted student unit (WSU) in the state aid formula for schools with little taxable land within their boundaries. The WSU alteration results in a total of approximately $6 million lost in funding for school districts serving Native American communities.

The Senators noted they would do everything possible to repair the error in the Senate Education Committee and, if necessary, the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Equal funding for education isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also a right guaranteed under our state’s constitution,” Heckaman said. “Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition is coming together to make changes to the funding formula in HB 1319. We will set things straight as the bill works its way through the Senate.”

“When it comes to fixing this bill, I know we are on the same page,” Boe added. “We look forward to working together and making sure that all our schoolchildren have the same opportunity to benefit from strong public schools across North Dakota.”

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