Disappointing: Gov. Burgum vetoes school choice bill

Stating that an education reimbursement bill “does not go far enough,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum recently vetoed the legislation (H.B. 1532), preventing the state’s students most in need of new learning opportunities from accessing them.

In his letter to House Speaker Rep. Dennis Johnson, Burgum stated that “North Dakota needs school choice for all parents, regardless of income or geography” but that H.B. 1532 in its final form “is not the comprehensive solution we need.”

Burgum continued by stating his objection to the bill is “not related to its cost,” but that it “simply does not go far enough to promote competition and expand choice in K-12 education. If not done correctly now, this bill could impede our ability to expand school choice in a meaningful way in the years ahead.”

Burgum’s decision is disappointing. First, H.B. 1532 would have only been in effect for a year, before the legislature would reevaluate it. It would have been a good start to gauge where school choice could take the state. North Dakota provides its families with very little school choice and ways to access such options. With no charter schools, no magnet schools, and open enrollment laws that miss the mark, it is far time for the state to shed its complacency and catch up to other states prioritizing education reform.

Second, numerous states have shown that you can pass several different school choice programs over the years without impeding expansion. Take Florida, for example. The state enacted a tax-credit education savings account in 2001. In 2014, the state enacted an education savings account program for students with special needs. In 2018, the state enacted a tax-credit scholarship program. In 2019, the state enacted a more expansive education savings account. Now, the state has universal school choice. Over the years, many families and students have been served by these programs.

For the sake of North Dakota students, let’s hope the next attempt to put them first is prioritized and seen fully through.