Consultant Says North Dakota Must Spend More On Education, But Aren't We Already Doing That?


Picus Odden & Associates, a consulting firm, recently told lawmakers on the interim Education Funding Committee that North Dakota needs to spend more on K-12 education.

“The current amount of $8,810 per student for 2013-2014 and $9,092 for 2014-2015 should be recalibrated to $9,347 and $9,442, respectively, according to the report,” writes Forum News Service reporter Jennifer Johnson.

“We’re not making any suggestions for dramatic change,” consultant Allan Odden is quoted as telling lawmakers. “I think this will give you an opportunity to streamline your system.”

But we’re talking about a $632 per-student increase in state spending, and when you consider that we currently have over 101,000 students enrolled in North Dakota public schools, that’s about a $63 million boost in spending. Not exactly small potatoes.

Though it is small when you consider what North Dakota has already done in terms of increasing education spending, something we can illustrate in a couple of charts.

First, via the latest numbers from the Department of Public Instruction, this chart shows school district expenditures (that’s all state, local and federal dollars) plus balances for the various district funds (general fund, building funds, etc.) going back to 2001.

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Second, here’s the enrollment trend from the 2003 fall enrollment through 2013 (the school year that is just ending):

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From 2003 to present, school expenditures in the state (not counting the various funds) increased $415.2 million or nearly 59 percent.

During that same time period enrollment barely increased at all. In fact, this school year finally saw enrollment eclipse what it was a decade ago. North Dakota had just 519 more students this school year than a decade ago, a 0.5% increase.

So before we go piling on more school funding, shouldn’t we be asking why we’ve already grown spending at a rate far and above the rate of enrollment? And have the academic outcomes from our schools improved as a result of this really pretty incredible increase in per-student expenditures?