I’ve said it for years and written about it a number of times— local control over education is a myth. In part, Governor Doug Burgum’s response — together with the Department of Public Instruction — to the Conronavirus (COVID-19) is yet another example of this.
The reality is that many North Dakotans are in denial. This is understandable. After all, most of us have always been told that local control exists. Admitting to having been misled isn’t always an easy thing to do.
To illustrate the myth, ask yourself who determines:
- Required Instruction
- Instructional Time
- Graduation Requirements
- The licensing and credentialing of teachers and ancillary staff.
- The establishment and adoption of student discipline and safety policies.
The list could go on, but the answer is very simple— the state.
“But we have local school boards,” you might say. That’s true. But have you ever looked at state law in regards to their authority? There’s not a whole lot there in terms of education itself. The 16 pages of code primarily relate to things like:
- Custody and Control of Property
- Buildings and Other Facilities
- Levying Taxes
Feel free to peruse the law yourself, if you don’t believe me.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, how K-12 has been affected in the response to COVID-19 hitting North Dakota is yet another example of state control over education. Remember, it wasn’t local school districts making the decision to close their schools. No, that decree came from the pen of Governor Doug Burgum.
When the determination was made that state law doesn’t permit schools to carry out a remote learning option, Governor Burgum came to the rescue with an Executive Order for that too. In it, he authorized each district to create “distance learning plans”.
The kicker with these plans though was that each one had to be approved by DPI’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kirsten Baesler.
Perhaps you feel differently, but I trust that most — if not all — districts are staffed by professionals who are, at the very least, every bit as capable as Baesler. So, why should any of them have to gain her approval for a distance learning plan?
We need to end the denial. By doing so, perhaps one day we’ll see the myth of local control become a reality.
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