KHRT ND News – 10/28/21

KHRT NEWS – THURSDAY – 102821 – 0700
 
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – House and Senate budget writers in the North Dakota Legislature adjourned Wednesday night after failing to reconcile differences on how some of the federal coronavirus aid available to the state should be spent.
 
Republican-led House and Senate appropriations committees during a marathon day at the state Capitol agreed largely on an assortment of initiatives ranging from road, water and bridge improvements and energy projects to workforce development and childcare programs. But the Senate’s proposal for a $25 million upgrade at an administrative building at Minot State University and a $30 million revolving loan fund for hospitals were among the sticking points for House negotiators. The committees plan to resume negotiations today.
 
The $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus funds the state received in June represents the single-largest deposit into state coffers in history. The money currently is parked in short-term CDs, earning less than 1% interest. A previous appropriation of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus aid last year already has been spent or earmarked for spending.
 
Lawmakers and others submitted a wish list that totaled $9.2 billion for the recent round of money. The appropriations committees narrowed the requests after several meetings in the past month. Although the money didn’t have to be spent until the end of 2026 under federal rules, many lawmakers pushed to spend the recent round of money quickly. In the most recent round of federal funding, the Legislature already has designated all but about $700 million of the money on construction and other infrastructure projects.
 
Senate Appropriations Chairman Ray Holmberg and his counterpart in the House, Jeff Delzer, have said priority for the funding was given to projects for which there is an immediate need, and those that won’t require a commitment of funds from taxpayers in the future. Before adjourning Wednesday night, Senate negotiators had endorsed spending all but about $21 million of the federal aid, while House committee set aside more than $80 million.
 
The biggest ticket item tentatively approved by both committees – and pushed by GOP Gov. Doug Burgum – was $150 million for natural gas infrastructure in the state’s oil patch. Burgum last month recommended legislators quickly spend the money on infrastructure, economic development and other projects to avoid inflation and rising construction costs.
 
Once approved by both House and Senate appropriations committees, the spending suggestions will be forwarded in the form of legislation to the full GOP-Legislature, which will debate the bill when they meet Nov. 8 in either a reconvened or special session.
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Enrollment declines at North Dakota’s institutions of higher learning haven’t been as steep as elsewhere since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment across the country at colleges and universities is down 6.5% compared to two years ago, which is the largest two-year enrollment drop in the last 50 years. North Dakota’s numbers haven’t been quite so steep, and in the case of some universities, including Dickinson State University, enrollment has increased, KFYR-TV reported.
 
“Students that are interested or deciding to go college, that number is kind of going down. But we, in this specific area of the country, don’t have that quite as much as other areas. So we still have a pretty good pool of students that are graduating and going to college,” said Stephanie Osborne, DSU admissions director.
 
Overall North Dakota colleges and universities experienced a 3.4% decrease in enrollment from 2019, and a 1.4% decrease from 2020. Other schools that have actually had enrollment increases since 2019 include Dakota College at Bottineau, Valley City State University and the University of North Dakota.
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BISMARCK, N.D. (PNS) – North Dakota teachers have shown their dedication during the pandemic, but more support is needed to keep them from leaving the profession.
 
Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, the statewide educators’ union, said it’s frustrating to see there might be enough prospective teachers finishing college, but not all of them are jumping into the pool right away. “Even in the larger school districts that used to get 15 applicants for every posting that they had open, now they’re getting five,” Archuleta observed. He noted some graduates might be delaying their careers until a better paying job opens up. Past research at Bismarck State College found North Dakota has faced more of a recruitment issue than an actual shortage.
 
This year, the Legislature approved a 1% boost in education funding, with 70% of new money going toward salary increases. The union is convinced it only happened because of enhanced federal support during the crisis. Archuleta pointed out teacher pay in North Dakota still lags behind people who work in the private sector. He feels the pandemic has also added recruitment barriers, alluding to public backlash over mask mandates for schools. “They take a look around them, they know that teachers have been used as a political football, and that’s not why they want to go into education,” Archuleta remarked.
 
In a recent Rand Corporation survey, one in four U.S. teachers said they’re likely to leave the profession. That compares to one in six prior to the pandemic. Archuleta contended the findings are why policymakers need to establish long-term funding commitments, to help compel teachers to stay committed to the profession.
 
 
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
 

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