With Enrollment Down Over 10 Years, Where Is North Dakota's Record Education Spending Going?


In recent years North Dakota has seen tremendous growth in K-12 education spending, and this legislature didn’t change that trend. The property tax shift included included in education funding has gotten the most attention, and even with the legislature shaving a bit off Governor Dalrymple’s proposed buy-down of education mills, the state is getting a huge increase in spending:

The compromise reached with HB1013 set the number of mills used to calculate a district’s state aid at 60 mills. The number of mills had been a major point of contention between both chambers that boiled over on the final day of the session. The Senate had wanted the number of mills set at 50, as had been recommended by the governor, while the House wanted it at 70 mills.

As passed, HB1013 permanently builds property tax cuts into the state K-12 funding formula. It sets the combined state and local share of K-12 education funding to $8,810 per student for the 2013-14 school year and $9,092 the following year, a sharp increase from the $3,980 paid out in 2012-13 and $3,910 in 2011-12.

The final bill contains nearly $660 million in property tax cuts. School districts that wish to pursue additional funding can do so through a local vote. Beginning teachers’ salaries also are raised from $22,500 to $27,500.

Here’s what that looks like in graph form (lower the $714 million “propertly tax relief” portion to $660 million):

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We’re getting all the usual blather from the politicians about our record “investment” in education – because the children are our future, and stuff – but what’s alarming bout these spending increases is that they’re coming at a time when K-12 enrollment in the state is still down under where it was a decade ago.

Enrollment has been climbing in more recent years, but we’re still down roughly 2% from 2003:


Why in the world are we spending so much more – the average biennium increase in appropriations to K-12 schools has been over 21% – to educate fewer students than we were ten years ago? Where is all the extra money going?

That’s the question nobody is asking. Mostly because anyone who asks it gets attacked for being anti-education.