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Senate looking at a "one and one" increase in K-12 funding

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The Senate Appropriations Committee is looking at a proposal to raise the per-pupil payment by one percent in the upcoming school year, and another one percent for the following year.

Gov. Doug Burgum had proposed a flat spending level of $10,036 per pupil for each of the next two years. The one-and-one proposal – endorsed by the senate Education Committee – would raise it to $10,136 in the first year, and $10,237 in the second year.

This comes as local school districts have received direct payments through the various COVID-19 federal relief packages. It’s called “ESSER” – for “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.” And some lawmakers think that money should be used for teachers’ salaries.

"The rules behind the ESSER is that you cannot supplant wages and benefits directly," Senate Education Committee chairman Don Schaible (R-Mott) told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Schaible said the "one and one" would be mostly used for wages and benefits.

"It's for the people who are really in the trenches, and who are having to do so much with so much less," Schaible said. "It seems to be a rational approach."

Schaible saids while the state has no direct say on what local districts can do with their ESSER dollars, he’s hoping the state would at least provide some guidance to the local districts.

"I'm not saying we need to force anybody into doing anything," Schaible said. "I think we should look at a collaborative approach to funding education and supporting our staff."

Schaible said he would hope that the ESSER money could be used for property tax relief, to pay for things outside of teacher salaries.

The Appropriations Committee did not take immediate action.

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