Wardner: If Measure 2 passes, it will be limited to K-12 spending | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Wardner: If Measure 2 passes, it will be limited to K-12 spending

Oct 18, 2016

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson).
Credit Courtesy ND Legislature

Measure two on the November ballot deals with the foundation aid stabilization fund.

That fund is used to make up for any budget allotments to elementary and secondary education ordered by the Governor. Only the Governor can dip into it, and only after an allotment.

In the past year, it has been used twice.

The measure would allow the Legislature to access it – for educational purposes. Opponents said because the measure does not specifically spell out K-12 education, the money could be used for such things as higher education.

"As far as we're concerned, it is for K-12," said Sen. Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson). He said he and House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) would introduce a bill in the 2017 Legislature to clearly spell out what "educational purposes" means.

Wardner said it makes sense to allow Legislative involvement in the use of that fund.

"It's a stranded asset," Wardner said. "You can't touch it unless there's a shortfall. And it may be another 20, 30 years before there's a shortfall. I think we have some places we can use that money for K-12."

One place Wardner would use the money is for school construction loans.

"We would set up a low-interest revolving loan fund with that money," Wardner said. "Schools can borrow the money at a very low rate, and build their facilies."

And Wardner said they money could be used to keep schools whole going forward.

"One thing people don't understand is -- the money we use this biennium to replace the allotment cuts -- we have to find it someplace for next biennium," Wardner said. "That's $116 million. Plus, we have an increase in student enrollment, which will probably cost $100 million. That's $216 million we have to come up with."

Two major education groups – ND United and the Council of Educational Leaders – support the measure. The North Dakota School Boards Association opposes it, calling it a “raid on the k-12 savings account.”