These are the comments made by North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta during the public comment period of the Fact Finding Commission hearing held in Fargo on Wednesday, July 20, 2017, at South High School. The Fargo Education Association — a local affiliate of ND United — is currently at impasse with the local school board in negotiations over their collectively bargained contract for all teachers in the Fargo Public School District.
For the record, my name is Nick Archuleta and I am the president of North Dakota United. NDU is an organization of 11,500 members whose purpose is to advocate on behalf of our members and the public they serve. Our members are K-12 teachers, higher ed faculty, education support professionals in both HE and K-12, and public employees throughout the state.
My intention today is to share my views as someone who has looked at the issues before the ND Education Fact Finding Commission from outside the bubble in which these items have been negotiated.
In the next five years, schools across the United States will have to hire 2.5 million teachers just to replace those teachers of the Baby-Boom generation, who have earned their retirement. Schools across the country are facing a teacher shortage that is growing each year and that will create fierce competition for teachers. FPS, like all schools in ND, are in competition for teachers, not just regionally but nationally.
In North Dakota, the average debt for an individual graduating with a degree in education is $28,000.
As education college graduates consider where they will teach, they will look closely at those communities that need teachers and are willing to invest in them. They will look into communities that understand clearly that a teacher’s safe workspace is the students safe learning space and take that issue seriously enough to put teacher safety into their contracts. Teachers know that if they do not not have a safe workspace then their students do not have a safe learning space. They are the same space! In addition, teachers will look at those communities across the country that compensate them sufficiently to retire their education debts, establish themselves in the community and perhaps even start their families.
The teachers of Fargo are not asking for the moon and stars. Though they are not to blame for it, they understand the financial situation in which the state and FPS now finds themselves. In fact they have understood it for some time now. Following the special session of the legislature last summer, NDU, after several somber discussions with then-Governor Dalrymple’s office and legislative leadership, made the decision to push for passage of Measure 2. M2 would allow the legislature to access up to $300 million from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund in order to protect K-12 funding. NDU and our partners at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) contributed significant funds to get M2 approved by the voters of ND. But it wasn’t just a winning strategy and money that made our efforts successful.
It was the hard work of teachers and friends of public education in Fargo, Williston, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Mandan, and across the state that led to success. Teachers here in Fargo manned phoned banks, knocked doors and did the person-to-person communication necessary to win.
And where was the School Boards Association on M2? Firmly opposed. Firmly opposed to helping secure the necessary funds to prevent their school districts from facing 10 percent to 15 percent cuts to their budgets, not unlike those that so severely impacted our Higher Ed campuses. This morning, I had the opportunity to visit with 20 teachers new to the Fargo public school system. As I left the group, I wondered just how many of these educators would have been hired had the ND School Boards Association’s position prevailed.
NDU President Nick Archuleta speaking in front of the Fact Finding Commission at Fargo South High School on July 20.
Incidentally, many of these same teachers worked tirelessly on the bond issue recently passed here in Fargo. I know because I joined them one night at our Fargo offices to make phone calls to folks across the city in support of the effort. NDU was all in on this effort. In fact, Dr. Schatz — who is very deserving of credit for his work on the bond issue — worked closely with NDU’s Ryan Nagle to develop a strategy to successfully pass the bond last March.
For all their efforts to strengthen Fargo Public Schools and make them the very best examples of teaching and learning in the area, the teachers are not looking for “THANKS.” They are, however, looking for and deserving of respect from this school board and this administration.
The teachers of Fargo, like those across the state, need to be treated as equals in the process of educating children. They are the experts in the classroom. They are closest to the children and know them best. It is no wonder that Teachers of Fargo enjoy the respect of their community.
All the teachers of Fargo are asking is to see that respect reflected in their Negotiated Agreement, as well.