This week's column, with thanks to Senator Flakoll, will address the K-12 education legislation that was passed in the recent legislative session.
With the passage of SB 2150, we will now have achieved our goal of equity and adequacy in K-12 education. Students in all schools, regardless of size, will have access to good, basic programs. We continue our policy of making investments in areas where we require specific action and provide proven, outcome-based funding. Dollars follow the students and their individual needs.
Funding for special education was significantly increased. Gearing Up for Kindergarten, which is a program for parents and their children, was funded. Ninety-six percent of parents who have participated indicated that the program was useful to them in their parenting. On both social skills and pre-academic skills, children in the Gearing Up program had an increase in ability that was three times higher than children who did not participate. Familiarity with numbers and the alphabet were also much higher for children who participated in the Gearing Up program, compared with those who did not. That is because parents were prepared to help their children prepare for attending kindergarten.
An alternative middle school program is funded to help address academic problems in a timelier manner by providing at least 15 hours/week of the new program. Academic and Career & Technical Scholarship Programs will continue for eligible students to use at any North Dakota college. Students can earn $6000 to attend either public or private colleges in the state.
Student well-being was addressed through programs for students with a traumatic brain injury, as well as mandating concussion management for student athletes at both public and private schools. Bullying prevention programs will be required at all schools. Abstinence must be taught as part of a health curriculum. The Home School bill made permanent the requirements accepted two years ago and added a reporting requirement.
Interim studies will include examining the short and long term funding of K-12 schools, Indian education issues, fees and extra charges that college students are expected to pay, and student preparedness for college.
Funding totaled approximately $1 billion. Seventy percent of new money must go to teacher compensation, with a few exceptions such as transportation. Local school districts may provide pre-kindergarten programs, if they choose, but the state will not reimburse that at the same level as K-12.
The 2011 legislature continued to support K-12 education in North Dakota through funding as well as other legislation. Everyone's goal is for our students to have the best education possible.
Your legislators welcome your comments. Our website, www.district13republicans.com, provides links to our e-mail, and it also has our current and past legislative reports for your review, as well as a calendar of upcoming events.