Education, CTE gets big checks from ND legislature

Education, CTE gets big checks from ND legislature
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 9:46 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Lawmakers passed the biggest state budget ever this Legislative Session. And that record budget also included a record education budget.

What can you buy for $2.6 billion? Well, it turns out, you can buy a pretty darn good public school system. And one of the central tenets of such a system is a focus on career and technical education, which has really gained ground in the past decade across the state.

Kyler Sabin and Daniella Dennis know all too well the benefits of career and technical education.

“My entire personality is just robotics and having that engineering aspect, so I would definitely not have the opportunities I have now without those CTE classes,” said Kyler, a junior at Century High School.

“I want to be a carpenter or to build my own business, and I’ve taken a lot of classes that get me into that. And I took architectural design because that’s what I want to go into. But I realized that wasn’t for me, and because I explored that, I realize now that I want to be more on the carpentry side of it,” said Daniella Dennis, a junior at Century High School.

CTE teachers say these experiences are the norm.

“We’re kind of a magnet for students who, maybe the traditional school setting isn’t quite for them. But when you put tools in their hands, or you give them problems to solve, all of a sudden, their brains are on fire and they are ready to work,” said Baron Blanchard, who teaches technology and engineering at the Bismarck Career Academy.

The first bill passed by lawmakers includes nearly $70 million to help finance the construction of 13 planned career academies across the state.

“It just provided confidence that, yes, we can now safely move forward with projects that we’ve been waiting on,” said Wayde Sick, state director for the department of Career and Technical Education.

North Dakota also became the first state to require cybersecurity and computer science education for all K-12 students.

“In those computer science and cyber security standards, it will tell you what a student should know and be able to do in computer science and cyber security in kindergarten, and then once they’ve mastered that, this is what they need to know and be able to do in first grade, second, third, fourth, fifth, all the way up,” said State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

The cybersecurity requirements will be integrated with current coursework.

The Legislature also increased per-pupil payments by 4% each of the next two years. That’s big news for school employees because 70% of that new money must be used for compensation.

“It can be used for teachers, bus drivers, teachers’ aids, child nutrition staff, crosswalk guards, whatever the school district needs. The only thing it can’t be used for is salary and wages for administrative positions,” said state superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

Lawmakers also increased the per-pupil payment for students with disabilities, which superintendent Kirsten Baesler says will help districts better meet the needs of those students.