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Bill funding construction of career tech education centers passes House committee

House Bill 1199 would authorize Bank of North Dakota to provide line of credit to expedite construction due to delays in release of ARPA funds

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Eric Ripley, with Career and Technical Education for Grand Forks Public Schools, reviews a series of posters highlighting careers for students. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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BISMARCK — The House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday, Jan. 18, to advance a bill funding the construction of career technical education centers across the state to the House floor.

The bill in question — House Bill 1199 — would help school districts cope with delays in the release of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds earmarked for the construction of career and technical education facilities. It would also authorize the Bank of North Dakota to provide a $68,276,228 line of credit — the remaining amount of ARPA funds not yet released by the federal government to the state — in order to expedite construction.

House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, a Republican from Dickinson and the bill’s sponsor, said waiting for ARPA funds to be released to fund these projects has been economically detrimental to the state.

“More than $88 million in ARPA funds were allotted for the construction of career and technical academies across the state,” Lefor said. “However, only $20 million of those funds have been authorized for this purpose. This delay in authorizing the release of funds has affected 13 projects across the state. Additionally, with inflation and supply chain issues, the costs of these projects have risen.”

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Eric Ripley, executive director of career technical education and technology for Grand Forks Public Schools, said although the district’s planned $10 million Career Impact Academy was approved by the state Board of Career Technical Education in March 2022, it and many other projects across the state have been put on hold since.

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“The delay in funding has affected both the timeline and budget of our project,” said Ripley. “Within the Grand Forks region, we see the Career Impact Academy as a critical component to addressing our workforce needs. This bill serves as a positive step forward, allowing the projects to regain momentum, and our collective efforts to expand high quality CTE across the state.”

Testifying in favor of the bill, Anna Nelson, president of the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the workforce challenges facing the region, and the positive impact career technical centers have on developing skilled employees.

“One of the starkest statistics I’ve encountered recently, is that we only have an average of 10 resumes for every job posted in the region,” said Nelson. “This statistic is truly a microcosm for the rest of the state. Quality of service is suffering, employees are overworked, education is hindered and investment is obstructed. People are a company’s most valuable asset, and the installation of career and technical centers gives us the opportunity to invest in all North Dakotans.”

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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