Burgum, Baesler applaud innovative education bill

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 3:00pm

BISMARCK, N.D. (April 11, 2017) – Gov. Doug Burgum, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, state legislators and others participated today in a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 2186, which promotes innovative approaches to education in North Dakota.

“This bill takes a crucial step in the right direction, empowering local school districts to better shape educational delivery to meet the needs of the 21st century,” Burgum said. “We are excited to put control of education back where it belongs – in the hands of teachers, students and parents.”

The bill allows teachers and schools – with the approval of their school board – to submit a request to waive sections of law related to K-12 education, provided their plan improves education delivery or administration, increases educational opportunities or improves the academic success of students. After review, the state superintendent may approve or deny the plan.

“This bill promotes the sharing of creative education practices among our schools,” Baesler said. “This bill gives our schools the opportunity to prepare multi-year innovation plans, with the support of the school board, teachers, school staff, parents and members of the community. Innovation requires us to take a close look at our current practices, and think about ways to make them better.”

The bipartisan bill was backed by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), North Dakota United, the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, the North Dakota School Boards Association, the governor’s office and parents seeking innovative, student-centric education.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, an English teacher at Century High School, said education has changed dramatically over the last 20 years in terms of content and instructional methods, but what hasn’t changed are the state rules and structures by which schools must abide.

“By giving schools more flexibility today, we will create better outcomes and opportunities for students tomorrow,” Poolman said.

Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, also a bill sponsor, noted the bill had broad-based support from both rural and urban legislators, Democrats and Republicans, and people of different generations and backgrounds. 

“We already have great education here for North Dakota kids, but we can do better,” Oban said, adding that by the governor signing the bill into law, “I think we are going to take a big, important step forward in education.”

The bill’s other sponsors were Sen. Diane Larson, R-Bismarck; Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake; Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, R-Wahpeton, and Rep. Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo.

The governor signed the bill April 3. It becomes effective Aug. 1.

Burgum, who joined Baesler earlier in the day at Simle Middle School in Bismarck to present a DPI education innovation award to teacher Ryan Townsend’s science students, will host an innovative education summit with Baesler on June 8 at Legacy High School in Bismarck.