North Dakota Legislature Approves Bill That Would Create The State’s First School Choice Program

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Reagan Reese Contributor
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The North Dakota House passed a bill on Thursday that would create the state’s first school choice program, giving taxpayer funds to students outside of the public school system.

In a 51-41 vote, the state House approved House Bill 1532, which would give private school students up to $3,000 to put towards their tuition. The bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday in a 27-19 vote and the legislation now heads to Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s desk. (RELATED: Oklahoma Is Set To Debut A First-Of-Its-Kind School Choice Program)

“The city in which I live is 50 miles from the nearest private school,” Republican state Sen. David Rust told the Associated Press. “There may be choice for those in a large city, but there really is no choice for those in a rural area, as there is no access.”

Under the legislation, families of four making less than $150,000 annually would be eligible for the school choice program. The program is estimated to cost $10 million from June 2023 to June 2025.

Through the 2024-2025 school year the effectiveness of the school choice program will be studied by a legislative committee, the bill stated.

“Again, to send public dollars to an entity that is not directly accountable to the public is inappropriate,” Alexis Baxley, executive director of the North Dakota School Boards Association, said ahead of the vote. “The lack of accountability is further underscored by the bill’s lack of definition for a qualified school beyond the willingness to accept program funds. There is zero level of quality required for a school to qualify for the program.”

States across the nation are enacting school choice legislation; in March, Republican Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders signed a law that would give the state a universal school choice program by the 2025-2026 school year. Shortly after, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law expanding the state’s school choice program to become universal.

“It’s really hard to determine a fiscal note on this for that because currently, we wouldn’t have an idea of how many people would fall under this criteria of the means test for the $150,000,” Republican state Sen. Donald Schaible told the Center Square.”We needed to put a figure in there. I knew $10 million would cover it. I’m guessing that’s a little high. But until we go through it, we really won’t know.”

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