Teachers’ union celebrates defeat of bills that would have empowered parents, put students first

North Dakota United declared defeating a school choice program and parental empowerment bills as legislative “wins,” according to the teacher union’s 2023 legislative wrap up.

The North Dakota House and Senate passed an education reimbursement program that would have relieved North Dakota families a small portion (up to $3,200) of tuition-related expenses at a nonpublic school. To be eligible, a family of four’s annual income would have had to be under $150,000. Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed the legislation. North Dakota United referred to the legislation as “a dangerous threat to public schools, rural communities, and services that depend on public funding.”

The state’s public schools currently spend on average over $14,000 per student — nearly 4.5 times what the reimbursement amount would have been. Fifty-six percent of North Dakota students are not reading at grade level, and 61 percent aren’t proficient in math despite significant increases in education funding — state revenue growth from 2002 to 2020 adjusted for inflation was up 142 percent. The persistent educational disparities seem far more concerning than a school choice program meant to help students access a learning environment where they will reach their fullest potential.

North Dakota United also celebrated the defeat of multiple parental rights bills, including SB 2260 that would have ensured parents have the fundamental and exclusive right to direct the education, upbringing, health care, and mental health of their child without obstruction by or interference from the state or governmental agencies. Under SB 2260, school boards would have also been required to develop and adopt a policy to promote parental involvement.

The teacher union’s longstanding opposition to educational freedom and its expansion shows how unwilling it is to put kids first. Not all students thrive in the same learning environment. By actively fighting against efforts that help students access the educational setting that works best for them, the union sends a clear message: It is focused on investing in a top-down education system instead of children.