Governor candidateThe Democratic candidate aiming to unseat North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Wednesday the Republican chief executive is hoarding money the oil-rich state should use to pay for education.
By: By Dave Kolpack, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — The Democratic candidate aiming to unseat North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Wednesday the Republican chief executive is hoarding money the oil-rich state should use to pay for education.
State Sen. Ryan Taylor unveiled his “Lasting Harvest” plan for pre-kindergarten through college that includes funding for early childhood programs, more scholarship money for college students and a boost in teacher salaries.
“As a state we have this $2 billion budget surplus mounting and it’s up to the governor, it’s up to our leaders in Bismarck, to invest those dollars wisely,” Taylor said during a news conference at the downtown Fargo Public Library. “Currently the Republican Legislature and the governor have sat on those dollars for too long while needs across our state go unaddressed.”
While the state’s revenue from oil production has built up the healthy surplus, state spending on K-12 and higher education has gone up substantially under Dalrymple. He took over for Gov. John Hoeven after Hoeven was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Amanda Godfread, Dalrymple’s communications director, said the governor’s commitment to education is evident in the endorsement of the North Dakota Education Association, which represents about 8,500 educators.
“Jack Dalrymple’s plans for the future help schools address rapidly increasing enrollments, and secure equitable funding for teachers and students to succeed,” Godfread said.
Taylor promoted his plan with comparisons to other states. North Dakota is one of 10 states in the country that does not fund the Head Start program for low-income children, one of 11 states with no money for pre-kindergarten curriculums, and one of 11 states without ongoing financing for school facilities, he said.
There are 985 families in the state on the waiting list for Head Start, including 330 from the Fargo region, he said.
“It’s embarrassing. And we can do better,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s plan would provide $10 million for Head Start and $10 million for pre-kindergarten classes. He said the state should create a pool of $100 million for school facilities in areas that are seeing rapid growth.
The Towner rancher said he would raise teacher pay that ranks what he called “an embarrassing” 47th in the nation to 40th within his first term.
“Wealthiest state in the country. Forty-seventh in teacher pay,” he said, shaking his head.
Taylor’s running mate, former Valley City State University and Mayville State University president Ellen Chaffee, outlined a needs-based scholarship program that she said would cut student loan debt in half, and talked about forming an advisory committee to help with the selection process for the state Board of Higher Education.
The state’s college students incurred $184 million worth of debt during the 2010-11 school term, Chaffee said.
“North Dakota is in a position to help,” Chaffee said. “Other oil-producing states like Wyoming have used a portion of their oil revenue to invest in their students’ education. We would follow suit.”