School Closures & Remote Learning Again Proves Local Control Myth

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:

  • Standards
  • Required Instruction
  • Instructional Time
  • Assessments
  • Attendance
  • 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
  • Fees
  • Contracts
  • Levying Taxes
  • Dues
  • Vehicles
  • Meetings
  • Training
  • etc.

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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About T. Arthur Mason 883 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.