School Choice Bills Heard at Legislature
BISMARCK – A legislative bill to reimburse private schools had a hearing Wednesday in the North Dakota House Education committee.
House Bill 1532 would require school districts to provide funds to private schools. It was heard in the House Education committee.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Claire Cory, R-Dis. 42, Grand Forks, said the bill respects parents’ right to choose the best education for their child.
“No family should be forced to choose between a school which does not fit their child’s needs and paying the bills,” said Cory.
Several representatives of private schools spoke in favor of the bill, including Father Jadyn Nelson, president of Bishop Ryan Catholic School, Minot; and Jeff Ringstad, administrator for Our Redeemer’s Christian School in Minot.
“One of the things that I face when I deal with parents that are seeking an education at Bishop Ryan is the dilemma that they face,” said Nelson. “And the dilemma often looks like this: I pay tax dollars, property and state, for the common good of the state of North Dakota, but because of my firmly held belief that a Catholic education is the best education I can give to my child, I must forfeit my share in the common good.”
Nelson said he works with charitable organizations to help bring down the cost of tuition at Bishop Ryan for parents who cannot afford it.
“Our children do not belong to public schools,” Nelson told the committee. “Our children belong to parents.”
In opposition, Aimee Copas, executive director of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, said she has never heard of a child being turned away from a private school due to financial struggles and, to keep it fair, private schools would need to have as much accountability and transparency as public schools.
“I’ve spent a lot of time this session talking about parents’ choice, partnering with parents, I absolutely believe that’s important,” said Copas. “But when a parent chooses, let’s say they choose a private institution, and they’re told no, whose choice was it then, the parents or the school? Allow the parents to send their kiddos to private school if that’s what’s a good fit for them. If you want to say hey, we’ll pay for it, but everybody plays by the same rules, it’s a whole different conversation.”
When questioned on the fairness of parents paying property tax for a school they don’t use, Copas said property tax carve outs would be up to the legislators.
Superintendents from several public schools spoke in opposition to the proposed bill.
The House Education committee also heard HB1376 which would allow students to enroll in a virtual school, using the funds that would have been provided to the student’s school district for enrollment.
Both bills will be sent to the House floor for consideration.