Jon Martinson: Stop the Measure 2 Raid on K-12’s Education Savings Account

Measure 2 will raid the K-12 education savings account (Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund), a constitutional fund established by the citizens of North Dakota in 1994 to be used exclusively for K-12 education. Its purpose is to offset any reductions to K-12 education when the state experiences a revenue shortfall. Only the Governor was given the authority to transfer money from this fund to the state’s general fund. Now, legislators want access to raid this savings account.

Measure 2 will do the following: Reduce the K-12 savings account to all but 15 percent of the money it takes to finance K-12 education, allow the Governor to access the remaining 15 percent, and allow the Legislative Assembly to spend dollars in the savings account for any “education-related purpose.” That could include anything related to higher education and/or any creative or imaginative idea the Legislative Assembly could possibly tie to education—even a road through a community that just happens to end up at the school parking lot.

Due to North Dakota’s revenue shortfall this year, the Governor twice made across-the-board budget cuts to state agencies. School districts did not suffer a cut because over $116 million was transferred from this savings account to the state general fund. The fund is working exactly as the people had intended, i.e., as a safety net for K-12 education during a state budget cut.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]It’s a short-sighted measure with the sole purpose of allowing legislators an opportunity to raid this fund to help them balance the 2017-19 biennial budget and future budgets as well.[/mks_pullquote]

In addition to providing the Legislative Assembly access to this savings account, there are two other major flaws in Measure 2. First, the Legislative Assembly can spend the fund down to 15 percent of the money necessary to finance K-12 education. As a result, this measure will transform a savings account used as a safety net for tough times to a permanent source of funding.

It’s a short-sighted measure with the sole purpose of allowing legislators an opportunity to raid this fund to help them balance the 2017-19 biennial budget and future budgets as well.

A second flaw of the measure is that it allows the Legislative Assembly to spend dollars for any “education-related purpose.” This vague, undefined term would become part of the state’s Constitution.

Supporters of the measure say they merely want to “loosen up” money in the savings account, but providing access to over half the savings account ($300 million) is actually raiding the account. Supporters also use a scare tactic by claiming if Measure 2 fails, taxes will increase. That “red herring” is used to mislead the public because this measure has nothing to do with taxes.

Supporters of the measure believe if the measure passes, there will be enough money remaining in the savings account to handle future budget shortfalls. First, how do they know? And second, legislators plan for the next two years. School boards think 5, 10, and 20 years out. Once K-12’s savings account is gone, except for the remaining 15 percent, it’s gone for good; and this ballot measure provides the means, motive, and opportunity for that to happen.

Vote NO on Measure 2

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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