By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
SCHOOL CHOICE: State Rep. Mark Dosch, a Bismarck Republican, says he’ll bring back school choice legislation again despite one school district saying they’ll spend tax dollars lobbying against it.
FARGO, N.D. — One of North Dakota’s largest school districts says its priorities for next year’s legislative session is protecting controversial Common Core standards and fighting school choice legislation.
“Opposition to eliminating Common Core standards and fighting against private school vouchers are just two of the controversial issues this school board says they want to take on and use your tax dollars to do it,” reports KVLY Valley News Live of the Fargo Public School District. “A district representative that we spoke with said they will challenge school vouchers because they don’t want to jeopardize any resources available to public schools.”
Lawmakers during the 2013 session considered HB1466, which would have allowed parents to send 25 percent of their child’s public school funding to a school of their choice, including private schools. The money would not have come from existing school budgets, but rather from a new appropriation.
After a lengthy floor debate in the state House — during which the bill’s sponsor Rep. Mark Dosch, a Republican from Bismarck, was reduced to tears — the legislation was defeated, 63-31.
“I am planning on it,” Dosch, who is not up for re-election this year, told Watchdog when asked if he planned to back school choice legislation next year.
Asked about Fargo’s decision to fight school choice, he said, “It’s very disappointing.”
“I would think that a school district or anyone in the education system would be more concerned about the student and quality education,” he said. “Public education is not the only answer out there. Unfortunately, when a public school district makes comments like this it says they’re more concerned about the money attached to the kids. To heck with the kids and what’s better for the kids and the taxpayers.”
Dosch defended the quality of North Dakota’s public schools, but he said parents and students should get a choice. “Don’t get me wrong, we have a great education system in the state, but that doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t get a choice on where to send their kids to get an education,” he said.
According to Dosch, school choice could ultimately save taxpayers money and take some of the pressure off growth in school enrollment.
“It’s costing the state about $8,000 to educate a kid. If we give the parents a voucher to give them a choice for $2,500 or whatever that voucher would be. If the state could give the kid $2,500 and save the state $6,500 we could save some tax dollars,” he said, referencing the revenue, which wouldn’t have to be expended on a child in public school.
“Every homeowner is seeing $200 to $250 added onto their tax bills to build more schools,” Dosch said. “Everybody’s tax dollars are going up because we’re building more schools.”
Fargo school board members came under fire earlier this year after voters shot down approval for the school district to continue exceeding the state’s property tax mill levy cap. Large expenditures on the Bluestem Theater in Moorhead and the district’s new Davies High School are said to have been the reason for that vote.
Shortly after the vote, school board members took to social media to accuse the public of wanting to lower education standards. “The voters have told us right now that, ‘Hey, we want you to tighten your belts and lower the education level that’s delivered,’ and the board has to respond,” board member Robin Nelson wrote on Facebook shortly after the vote.
“If you think education is expensive … try ignorance,” board member Paul Meyers posted on Facebook. “This recurrent theme of ‘bad Davies’ ‘bad Bluestem’ is reasonably typical of the myths and misinformation that some of these people use for food.”
You can reach Rob Port at firstname.lastname@example.org