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UPDATE: Senate approves K-12 spending bill

The state Senate has approved the bill that funds K-12 schools.

That includes new language on what school districts are to do with the increased state funding.

The Senate is proposing a one percent increase in per-pupil payments in each year of the upcoming biennium. This, as school districts will be receiving federal money due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that federal money comes with strings attached.

"In schools, education takes place in the classroom," said Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks), who also chaired the subcommittee. "That's where we want to focus North Dakota money."

That subcommittee – which also included Sen. Nicole Poolman (R-Bismarck) and Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) – approved the language. Specifically, the language said 70 percent of the new state money must be spent on "compensation for non-administrators."

"Teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, lunch ladies, and others who have made learning possible in the year of the pandemic will see a raise in the next biennium," Poolman told the Senate.

"This is the same tool that Gov. John Hoeven (R) used in 2003," Holmberg said. "Since that time, North Dakota's teacher compensation has gone from a tie with South Dakota and Mississippi, at the bottom of all states, to in the middle of the pack."

The vote on HB 1013 was 44 to 3. It now goes back to the House to see if it agrees with Senate changes.

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