3/9/15

 

Good Morning! Here’s what we’re following at the N.D. Legislature this week.

 

This morning I’ll be testifying in support of SB 2031, which is Governor Dalrymple’s funding bill for K-12 education. The bill provides over $2 billion in support of education. This legislation provides significant investments in children, teachers and infrastructure, and we always welcome such investments. 

 

Also today, Stuart will be offering testimony in opposition to HB 1254. This bill is a voucher bill in the form of a tax deduction for private school education. One of our core beliefs is that public monies should be used to support public schools

 

On Wednesday, I will testify in support of SB 2355. This bill calls for a study of how ESPB, DPI and other education groups are working together to enhance the delivery education in ND. Our sole concern is that DPI is charged with conducting the study, and we will encourage legislators to name an outside vendor to do that important work.

 

We feel that since DPI is to be studied, it would be prudent to have an independent consultant conduct the study.

 

Also on Wednesday, Fern will address HB 1251. This bill, you will remember, is the retaliatory bill submitted by the N.D. School Boards Association to punish our members who were successful in court last year in making school boards bargain in good faith. We defeated this bill once, and then it was brought back to the House Education Committee and the truly offensive third section was removed, but the time allowed for teachers to consider their contract offers was shortened from 30 days to 14 days. We will ask for an amendment to change that provision back to 30 days.

 

On Friday, HB 1080 – the PERS “Recovery Plan” – will be heard, and Stuart will represent NDU there. This bill has gotten rather convoluted from its original intent to increase contributions to the PERS defined-benefit retirement plan, and we think the best thing that can happen is that this bill just dies. If nothing else, it should be an interesting discussion.

 

Tonight, NDU is hosting our Legislative Social at the Heritage Center from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m. The Gefroh Bros. will provide the entertainment as legislators enjoy a dessert and conversation with folks from NDU.

 

So there you have it!  Please enjoy this beautiful Spring weather, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and visit ndunited.org for all the latest updates. And remember, if you haven’t registered for the NDU all-member Advocacy & Bargaining Conference, do so today!

 

2/9/15

 

Hello all!

 

Thank you for your membership in North Dakota United and for all you do for our kids and the citizens of North Dakota.  

 

So let’s get to it! Here’s what’s shakin’ on the Hill at the Legislature this week!

 

Today, there is a hearing on the collection and dissemination of student information. HB 1453 would limit the type of information that could be collected about a student by state agencies, the state assessment administrator and school districts. In addition, it limits the information that may be asked of a student in surveys that a student may take. HB 1453 also prohibits a school that provides electronic devices from tracking a student’s location, monitoring his/her browsing history, scanning or monitoring a student’s biometric information such as posture, facial signs, vital signs, etc.

 

Two of our concerns with this piece of legislation are that it imposes many restrictions on what schools are able to do and would effectively prohibit North Dakota students from participating in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. We are unsure how this bill will be interpreted.

 

SB 2031, the Education Funding Bill, is before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. This bill calls for over $2B in education spending, and I have already testified in favor of the bill when it was before the Senate Education Committee. Stuart will testify on behalf of NDU and our support of SB 2031.

 

On Wednesday, testimony on SB 2355 will be heard before the Senate Education Committee. This bill would put the Education Standards and Practices Board under the control of the Department of Public Instruction. NDU stands in vigorous opposition to this legislation for two very good reasons: First, if this legislation passes, teachers will be the only profession not in charge of licensing its own members. Second, it would nullify the reason for the separation of the two groups in the 1990s. The ESPB is made up of members who represent K-12, higher education, private schools, school boards and school administrators. Together, they direct the Executive Director of ESPB to implement plans and policies that create better teacher training programs, discipline teacher and administrator members, and provide mentoring to teachers in the early years of their profession, and set requirements for licensure. ESPB came about because the DPI was unable to effectively do well by educators, school boards and administrators. ESPB has worked well because it was able to change to meet the challenges it faced. Returning to a failed system is a mistake, so we will be in opposition to SB 2355. Jane Rupprecht, who was an outstanding teacher prior to becoming an outstanding UniServ Director, will provide our testimony.

 

We are also tracking bills related to scholarships, student financial assistance, and the reauthorization of various university projects, such as HB 1003

 

Finally, for now, HB 1461, Rep. Jim Kasper’s legislative gambit to sharply undermine the authority of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and stop Common Core State Standards, was heard in the House Education Committee last week. The room was packed as Rep. Kasper took to the podium to present his bill and then introduce three folks he brought in from out of state to testify. Two retired college professors spoke first. One worked on the ELA part of the CCSS, the other on the Math portion. They testified for a long time and told the audience that they were two of the five CCSS committee members to vote to not endorse the Standards. The 25 other members voted in the affirmative. When they had finished their testimony, a lawyer from Missouri rose to testify about his perception that the CCSS were unconstitutional, contending that the “compact” signed by several states and the UCLA was unconstitutional. What he did not understand is that there was no compact. Individual states signed “contracts” with the UCLA. He has not taken this case to court.  

 

To close out the testimony in support of  HB 1461, an engineer, whose children are homeschooled, came to the podium and spoke not so much of the CCSS, but of the processes used to arrive at the CCSS.

 

Then it was the turn of those who oppose HB 1461 to be heard. Superintendent Kirsten Baesler presented the facts regarding ND’s participation in the CCSS. Andy Peterson of the Greater North Dakota Chamber spoke about the benefits of the CCSS from a business standpoint. Various superintendents from schools across the state rose to speak in favor of the CCSS, with one in particular, Marc Bluestone from New Town, telling about how his school now offers Trigonometry and Calculus courses because under the CCSS, his students have found a love of learning. Stories like Mr. Bluestone’s were repeated over and over again.

 

I had hoped to offer oral testimony but, as time became an issue, I had the teachers I asked to be present that day take to the podium. From there, they did a terrific job of sharing with committee members the differences that the CCSS have made for their students and for themselves as professionals. Before super teacher Amanda Peterson from Bismarck was able to speak, Chairman Nathe, citing the time constraints, closed the hearing. There were still at least a dozen people waiting to speak against HB 1461. I want to thank educators  Michelle Bertsch, Lynn Mitzel, Lori Young, Dr. Kristin Garasas-Johnson, Amanda Peterson, Michelle Bertsch, Kim Stockert and Brenda Leon for taking the time away from what they love to do to be in Bismarck and testify on this piece of legislation.

 

I have received four e-mails from our members who do not support the CCSS and who question our organization’s opposition to Rep. Kasper’s over-reaching legislation.  I’ll try to answer those concerns:

 

While Common Core is about education standards, it is in many ways about something larger. It is about our organization’s ability to fight back against those who have made it their mission to undercut everything for which we stand.

 

Common Core’s opponents may be a vocal ideological minority, but they are a well-organized minority. While they claim to be champions of local control, they rely on self-appointed out-of-state activists to make their case. 

 

Not one single school board or administrator has come out in opposition to Common Core’s standards. Nor has one asked, let alone demanded, to be released from the CCSS provisions. Of course this has not stopped opponents from claiming they are protecting local control. In fact, in their zeal to kill Common Core, the opponents actually undercut local control. If they had their way, school districts would not even be allowed to use any resources aligned with any aspect of Common Core, even if the local school board wanted to align their standards to CCSS.

 

For our part, North Dakota United is in great company on this issue. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the North Dakota School Boards Association, North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, Governor Dalrymple, Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven. This is an issue that cuts across the political spectrum, uniting all of us in our determination to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s global economy.

 

So why does this matter to every North Dakota United member? It matters because if we lose this fight, those who oppose collective bargaining rights, those who want to eliminate our defined-benefit pensions and those determined to undermine public education with a voucher program will be strengthened. They will see a defeat as an opportunity to go after everything North Dakota United is dedicated to protecting and promoting. We can’t let that happen.

 

I am asking you to now lend your voices to this cause, and give the Legislature the full strength of our voice. Click here to easily send a message to your House representatives, and urge them to vote no on this bill. If you have personal stories about your own experiences with the state standards, share them. Most importantly, tell them what YOU think about how these standards align with your own goals and expectations you have for your students and your children. We all want what's best for our kids. Please show your support for student success in North Dakota, and ask your representatives to VOTE NO on HB 1461

 

While we are glad the House Education Committee voted on Wednesday to recommend "Do Not Pass" on House Bill 1461, we are fully aware that the debate on the House floor will be intense. That debate will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 11. We will, of course, keep you posted. Like NDU on Facebook or follow NDU on Twitter for all the latest.

 

2/2/2015

 

Busy busy week ahead in the Legislature this week.  Let's get to it!

 

As I write this, I am in the  hearing of HB 1461, the bill that would undermine the authority of the Supt. of Public Instruction, stop Common Core in ND, and remove our participation in the Smarter Balanced Consortium.  We are opposed to this bill for many reasons, but chief among them is that it would concentrate the responsibility for making education policy in the Legislature.  Professional educators deserve a professional DPI.

 

Stuart will testify on HB 1403 which would grant leave for victims of domestic violence.  

 

A very good bill, SB 2279, would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of housing and hiring.  We support this bill.

 

HB 1369 is a bill that reduce the student loan interest rate and we strongly support its passage.  The average student debt in ND is something like $30,000. Our bank, the Bank of North Dakota, should charge what it costs to administer student loans and no more. Having kids graduating with high student debt prevents or delays them from engaging in our economy and that is not good for ND. 

 

We are also testifying in support of HB 1154. This bill would allow state employees who opted into a defined contribution retirement plan to return to the defined benefit retirement plan.  Inasmuch as there is a legislative appetite to end DB, it is not likely that this will pass.  If it doesn't, however, it won't be because we didn't try!

 

We are also looking at legislation related to the proposed Legacy Fund Foundation, Compulsory Attendance, early Childhood Education, individual tax deduction for public pensions, and an interesting Senate Concurrent Resolution that, if passed, would send a message to theCongress of the United States demanding that the federal government end funding of education in the states and eliminate the Department of Education.

 

We will let you know how everything goes this week. I want to thank you for your feedback on these legislative updates.  Please don't hesitate to let us know your concerns.

 

Have a great week!

 

Nick Archuleta

NDU President

 

 

1/26/15

 

This Week at the N.D. Legislature: Standing Strong

 

So what's up at the Capitol this week?

 

 

I'm glad you asked! 

 

We will continue to track several pieces of legislation and will testify on these:

 

HB 1315 will allow school districts to pay off the salary schedule for hard-to-fill positions and make that pay  permanent. We believe that if you want to make your school district a place where people want to live and work, raise ALL salaries, not just the salaries in hard-to-fill positions.

 

HB 1251 is up Monday morning. This is a retaliatory piece of legislation put forth on behalf of the N.D. School Boards Association to punish our success in recent court cases in Dickinson and Valley City. It would change the rules of negotiations by shortening the time teachers have to consider contract offers from 30 days to 14 days.  It would also penalize teachers if a contract negotiation is not completed by the start of the school year by eliminating the long established norm of making salary increases retroactive to the start of the school year.

 

HB 1195 is a guns-in-school bill that we oppose. Better legislation would make grants available to districts who want them to modernize their schools to make them safer and/or to hire school resource offers.

 

HB 1428 is our legislation that will mandate that those state agencies without policies addressing workplace harassment will have to adopt the policy used in HRMS.

 

SB 2290 is our bill that would make full-time temporary workers into full-time employees with the benefits they deserve.

 

 

Call your elected officials about these bills and others. They want and need to hear from you because YOU are the experts on the front lines.

 

You can keep track of all the legislative action this week as it happens by following North Dakota United on Twitter, @NDUnited, and check out my new profile on Twitter, @NDUNick.

 

Don't forget to register, too, for the All-Member Advocacy and Bargaining Conference at www.ndunited.org.

Have a great week!

 

 

Nick Archuleta

NDU President

 

 

1/18/2015

Hello, everyone!

 

We have a very busy week ahead of us at the Capitol!  Here it is:

 

  • North Dakota United will be testifying in support of HB 1244. This bill would allow state employees to use sick leave to care for their sick children as well as to facilitate the adoption of a child.
     
  • NDU will testify in support of HB 1263, which will direct the Supt. of Public Instruction to study the expansion of virtual schools for K-12 students.  We will testify that any committees, task forces, or working groups formed to facilitate the Superintendent’s work shall include teachers, parents, students, community members and administrators.
     
  • NDU will offer testimony in support of increasing funding for schools with declining enrollment that are disadvantaged by the current school funding formula. HB 1263 is the bill.
     
  • NDU will support SB 2209, which calls for training for school staff, teachers, and administrators in the area of youth suicide risk indicators and mental health risk indicators.  
     
  • HB 1216 is a bill that could be called a “funding in real time” bill.  It would require the state to pay their per pupil obligation to school districts based on the students that are enrolled in the current year rather than basing that funding on the number of students reported the last school year.  
     
  • We will get an opportunity to comment on the Education Funding Bill.  As you know, there is over $2B dollars for education in the Governor’s budget.  We will try to get the Fall Conference days paid for teachers, too!  SB 2031 is that bill.
     
  • NDU will oppose HB 1202, a bill that would allow private sector employers to opt out of paying an employee his/her due accrued leave at the end of his/her employment.  This is an issue of basic fairness.
     
  • I will testify on HB 1257, which is an equal pay for equal work bill.
     
  • We will hear testimony on HB 1157, a bill that would allow elected officials to pack heat in public buildings.
     
  • SB 2152 deals with allowing the Superintendent of a school district to suspend employees rather than that being a school board action.
     
  • SB 2153 would close the personnel files of teachers being investigated by administration and law enforcement until after a trial.  We support this bill because not everything in a teacher’s personnel file may be pertinent to the investigation and should not be thrown out there for everyone to see.  It also helps to ensure that a case against a teacher is not tried in the court of public opinion until it is tried in a courtroom.
     
  • HB 1080 is opposed by NDU because the benefits cuts are too deep to justify the 1% increase to ND PERS.
     
  • SB 2038 is opposed because defined benefit retirement plans are far superior to defined contribution retirement plans.  

 

All NDU members are encouraged to reach out to their legislators, and make your voices heard on these issues! If you're unsure of who your legislators are in your district, use this link to Find My Legislator.

 

That’s it for now! Have a great week and know that we’ve got your back!

 

 

Nick Archuleta
NDU President
 

 

P.S.  I’ll be on Joel Heitkamp’s radio show on Wednesday from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.! Tune in if you can!