ND State School Funding Up 181% Over Last Decade, Enrollment Down 2%

The North Dakota Senate today passed HB1319, which was Governor Jack Dalrymple’s new school funding bill. It includes what the politicians are calling $714 million in property tax relief, but it’s really just a bloated version of the property tax buy downs the state has been doing in the past.

You know, the ones that really haven’t done anything to satisfy public angst over property taxes in the past.

This bill has the state take over the lion’s share of school funding – not exactly the “keep it local” North Dakotans voted for on the June ballot last year – in exchange for a massive state appropriation. But that’s not really tax relief in that we’re just shifting that spending from local tax revenues to statewide tax revenues.

The spending isn’t disappearing. We taxpayers will still be supporting it. Just in a different way.

Keep in mind that local government shave already gobbled up $752 million in “property tax relief” from state governments. At most, what this bill is doing is buying a reset on property taxes.

In the short run, this buy-down will probably mean lower property taxes. But it will do nothing to alleviate upward pressure on property taxes in general. In five or six years we’re going to be right back where we are now with property taxes.

Which is essentially what happened with the buy-downs in the past, starting in the 2007 legislative session:

1984_2011_Property_Tax_Graph

By the way, with the passage of Governor Dalrymple’s “property tax relief,” K-12 spending in North Dakota now looks like this:

k12spending

That’s a huge increase, especially when you consider that enrollment is actually down 2% over the last decade:

enrollment

We’re spending 181% more to educate fewer children.

The bill also includes Senator Tim Flakoll’s sop to Democrats in the form of controversial funding for a milk program, but most of the floor debate circled around a floor amendment offered by Senator Heckaman to move the minimum teacher salary from $27,500, an increase from the current $22,000 included in Governor Jack Dalrymple’s budget, to $32,000. That amendment was defeated on a 14-31 vote, which is at is should be.

In 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available online, just 15 teachers made the current minimum. Just over 11% made less than the minimum Democrats want:

graph (2)

And remember, we’re talking about increasing the minimum. Nothing is stopping school districts from paying well above the minimum. The Democrats, no doubt at the behest of the state’s unions, just wanted to inflate the salary starting point.

It’s unnecessary, especially considering that a large number of teachers are making above North Dakota’s media household level:

graph (3)

I’ll post the video of the floor debate later.

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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