On Wednesday, we published an article predicting that the North Dakota Senate would defeat House Bill 1545, which called for the study of replacing property tax with an alternative source of revenue. That was after the Senate Finance & Taxation Committee gave it a 5-1 Do Not Pass recommendation. On Thursday, we followed up after the prediction became a reality— by a vote of 7-39. But that wasn’t the only study they thumbed their noses at.
Immediately after defeating the property tax study, the Senate gave brief consideration to House Bill 1464, before defeating it 13-33. This bill proposed to have Legislative Management study “the feasibility and desirability of developing a school choice program to provide parents of students with options, funding, and support in selecting charter schools, magnet schools, or private schools for their children.”
We’re advocates of school choice here at The Minuteman. In fact, we published an article devoted to the subject just over a year ago. But anyone that’s familiar with education in North Dakota also knows that there’s a tremendous amount of protectionism for our public education system by those who rule from Bismarck. The idea of parents having options on how to spend their tax dollars, when it comes to educating their children, just doesn’t set well with those who can’t resist supporting the public school monopoly.
There’s a lot of defeated bills that illustrate what I’m saying. But in a sense, HB 1464 takes the cake. After all, it was simply a study— that’s it. But Senator Donald Schaible (R – District 31) — who chairs the Senate Education Committee — was having none of it. You can see his comments here. But in Schaible’s mind, the state has already done a good enough job with school choice. It’s a fascinating thought— especially when we consider that we don’t really have school choice.
Yet, in Senator Schaible’s world, school choice means things like homeschool options, alternative education, distance education, and scholarship programs. How can this amount to true school choice when parents have no say in how their tax dollars are spent on education? Sure, parents might opt for alternatives to public education, but they’ll have to pay for them in addition to what they dole out in taxes for the public option. Does this foster an environment of choice or stifle it? I think the answer is clear.
There’s definitely one thing that Schaible is right about— the biggest obstacle to true school choice in North Dakota is our own State Constitution. If we are to ever revolutionize the educational funding mechanisms for parents in this state, then we have to amend that document. I believe there’s simply no way around it.
As I’ve written before, Governor Doug Burgum, DPI Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, and others are now trying to move North Dakota into an era of “innovation in education”. But there’s only one way to effectively accomplish this— we must end the monopoly of public education. Otherwise, it will all prove to be nothing more than catch phrases and political platitudes. And our children deserve better than that.
When the legislature won’t even permit a study of school choice in North Dakota, it sends us a clear and undeniable message— they’re satisfied taking our money and telling us exactly how they’ll spend it.
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