Measure 2: whether or not to spend K-12 education rainy day fund

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Measure 2 is a fight over the state's K-12 education rainy day fund.

Voters created the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund in order to make sure public school funding stays whole when a governor is forced to issue an allotment, as Governor Jack Dalrymple has done twice this year. Some argue, however, the $574 million fund has grown too large and want to use it for more education-related purposes.

Filling a cup from the wrong container is how the head of the North Dakota School Boards Association describes Measure 2. A "yes" vote would allow lawmakers to use any money in the fund that exceeds 15 percent of the state's K-12 budget for educational purposes.

"Keep in mind, it's really fun to spend money. But can you imagine the fun of spending somebody else's money? And that's what's going on," says Jon Martinson, NDSBA Executive Director.

But the leadership of ND United, representing the state's teachers, says the funds are needed just to maintain necessary school funding.

"The economic picture we're going to be facing in this next election is a very stark one, and what we can do by being able to utilize this money is to make sure K-12 education is funded fully," says Nick Archuleta, ND United President.

The fund's money comes from the oil extraction tax. As the boom has grown, so has the savings account - to levels many thought they'd never see.

"We look at this thing as a fund, certainly, but it regenerates itself. Unless we're going to quit drilling oil, there will always be money going into that fund," says Archuleta.

"Our role is to try to keep a savings account intact, just like a family wants to keep their savings account intact," says Martinson.

Martinson points out the state had to dip into the fund to help fund schools the tune of $116 million this year, while Archuleta counters by pointing out that was covered by last year's contribution to the fund.

Archuleta says the fund would stay at about $300 million if lawmakers use every dollar available to them if Measure 2 passes.

He also says he's gotten assurances from majority leadership in both the House and Senate that the legislature would pass a bill requiring the money taken from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund be used exclusively for K-12 education funding.