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Sen. Nicole Poolman, Published June 06 2013

Letter: Republican lawmakers stood tall for ND public education

I have always believed the most important job our Legislature has is to provide an exceptional education for our children. I am proud of the work we did this last session and commend my colleagues for their commitment to our children and our schools.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

• We increased education funding $477 million to

$1.7 billion. That’s almost $9,000 per student in this next school year. We also provided millions of dollars for schools facing issues of rapid enrollment and $3 million in grants to improve school safety.

• The minimum teacher salary was increased by 22 percent, and the Legislature increased funding directed at classrooms by $187 million. A new funding formula was passed to ensure long-term property tax relief and further improve adequacy and equity in our funding distribution to our local school districts.

• It was a great session for kids who also want to pursue higher education. We invested $10 million in merit-based scholarships and

$21 million for needs-based scholarships. Both of these programs will considerably drive down student loan debt.

• There were key changes made in higher education funding to benefit both students and taxpayers. From now on, we will fund our universities based on the number of credits successfully completed rather than fall enrollment numbers. Our colleges and universities will no longer race to enroll students in the fall; instead, the focus will shift to encouraging students to pass classes and graduate in a more timely matter. This is good news for students, their parents and the taxpayers of North Dakota.

• In addition to dramatically increased funding for schools and our children, we also brought significant relief to local property taxpayers. This session, we reduced local school property taxes by more than $660 million. That’s putting real money back into the pockets of our state’s property owners.

While some might suggest otherwise, the facts speak for themselves. Republicans stood tall on education and provided the kind of educational resources our children need to succeed. This legacy legislation will benefit generations to come, and I am thankful to have been part of a session so important to our children and the future of North Dakota.

Poolman, R-Bismarck, is a classroom teacher. She represents District 7

in the North Dakota Senate.