Baesler talks changes in ND education from 2019 session

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BISMARCK, N.D. - A lot of wins. That’s how Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction Superintendent describes how North Dakota education fared in the 2019 session so far and there’s a few chances for even more good news. She sat down with us to go over some of the changes.


THE WINS

North Dakota teachers can get credentialed as a certified cybersecurity or computer science teacher and it looks like the legislature will foot the bill. The move is part of a statewide effort to make North Dakotans, Kindergarten through college “cyber ready.” In July, the state announced a partnership with Palo Alto industries to address the projected 1.8 million job openings in cyber security by 2022.

The state updated the bullying statute to include cyberbullying. Baesler says this was one of the top priorities of her student cabinet in the interim. Senate Bill 2181 will now include any communications over electronic devices which “Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of harm or damage to property of the student.” The bill also “Requires the notification of law enforcement personnel if school district personnel have a reasonable suspicion that a crime might have occurred on or off school district property.”

Baesler says they’re also trying to break down barriers for potential teachers, starting with high school students and credentialing people who have degrees in other areas as teachers.


THE ONGOING BATTLES

There’s a number of issue wrapped into Senate Bill 2265, one of them is changing the requirement from a set number of days to hours. This would give all districts the ability to consider switching to 4-day school weeks. Five districts already have a four-day week, and Baesler says more districts have applied to make the switch.

“I think it's going to provide some opportunity of flexibility some opportunity for school districts to do their professional development learning with their teachers differently. And hopefully provide some flexibility for our students to learn differently,” said Baesler.

Districts will still have to submit a waiver to DPI in order to make the change. The overall bill is in a conference committee.


COMPROMISE

The armed first responder bill drew a lot of attention all session. Baesler says she and Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, along education leaders met regularly to find a compromise and eventually, it was passed and signed into law. She says the education groups are ok with what she calls an acceptable compromise where teachers and students are safe.

“It allows the school districts, the local school districts to make the decision. If they feel that is something that is necessary in order to keep their students safe, they now have the opportunity,” said Baesler.