Panel seeking ‘equity’ in North Dakota school funding



(The Center Square) – The North Dakota School Funding Task Force narrowed its focus Thursday to issues related to high-cost students, funding without property tax, performance-based funding and transportation.

Members also discussed determining what it looks like to have equitable funding.

“One of the things I would suggest as a starting point would be a review of the national data regarding what is equity. What is the definition?” said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks. “I know some of those cases we reviewed today or heard about today in our meeting that there was a very definite understanding of whether the states’ formula was providing equity.”

Sandford went on to say there was “significant disparity” between North Dakota’s school districts.

Responding to earlier questions from task force members about equity in the state’s funding formula, Adam Tescher, the director of school finance for the Department of Public Instruction, called the formula “very complicated.”

“I think trying to balance complexity with equity becomes a challenge and I don’t know if there’s a way we can simplify this to maybe potentially make it easier for others to understand but then we also come into some potential equity issues as we do that if you take out some of the funding for free and reduced-price lunch or whatever aspects that we try to simply. So there’s a delicate balance there of trying to find a simplistic formula and the right equitable formula,” Tescher said.

The school funding task force was created through Senate Bill 2328 earlier this year. Members are responsible for reviewing multiple issues related to school funding, including previous litigation, higher education funding sources, school payment formulas, other state’s school funding formulas and more.

“There’s 11 items that we’re tasked to study for and look at, and it’s pretty all-encompassing about everything there is with education, and so I don’t know if it’s even possible to study everything that’s about education, but we will certainly try to pull out the highlights and potential issues that we have and improvements that we’re looking for with this committee,” said Sen. Donald Schaible, who is serving as chairman of the task force.

Thursday’s meeting consisted of presentations on elementary and secondary education state aid, school funding litigation, school enrollment, school funding models, special education, revenue sources, transportation aid and more.

The task force is expected to report findings and recommendations to the next legislative assembly.



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