Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 21-02-2017

democrats-republicans-education**This post is directed to my party, the Republican Party, and our legislators both in Bismarck and D.C.

Dear Legislators:

Do you support rural America?  Would the idea that you promote policies and programs that support rural America be a cornerstone of your campaign?  I am going to make the assumption that your answer is yes, since we do live in a highly rural state.  So what have you done to strengthen our rural areas?  Have you promoted investments and policies to:

  • Provide affordable housing
  • Enhance rural health care
  • Support agriculture and all that support feeding the world
  • Improve rural utilities including water, power, and sewer
  • Provide incentives for businesses that develop and grow in rural areas
  • Strengthen the corner stones of rural communities (health care, civic organizations/faith, schools)….. Oh wait!

98% of parents in our state report they are pleased with their local school their children attend.  School pride in both academics and athletics fill rural community centers each and every week.  I would presume many in rural communities would have a positive response toward their school and the pride it brings to their community.  Schools can be the unifying force in many communities.  But, are YOU really trying to support rural communities and keep their schools alive?  Lets take a second to look.

My party, the Republic Party promotes many education reforms.  You be the judge as to how these will affect your small rural schools.
* http://www.republicanviews.org/republican-views-on-education/

  • Reforming Higher Education – We believe in expanding community colleges, technical institutions, and online schools.  We believe in reducing the debt load kids are incurring right now.  We believe higher education needs to be more in tune to the needs of the job market.  And finally, they indicate that the failures of higher ed are due to the failures of K-12.
  • Accountability – My party believes in merit pay, developing character and financial literacy skills, rigorous student assessment to demonstrate student success, STEM, and they believe reforms are best left up to the states.
  • Home Schooling & School Choice – My party believes parents need ultimate control over their child’s education.  They support removing all restrictions on home education.  They believe in development of charter schools and online academies.  Republicans promote vouchers allowing portability of state dollars, and they believe in prayer in school.
  • Students Success Act – This act, supported by Republicans, revamped NCLB and gave control of education back to the states.  It required accountability and removed the Common Core Curriculum from federal requirements.

So which of these are supporting your community and its school?

  • Reforming Higher Education – I don’t see anything here that hurts rural America and if we can find ways to reduce students debt as our kids attend higher ed that is a positive.
  • Accountability – Merit pay, bonuses and the like are most commonly based on student assessment performance.  Is this really the focus of what we want for our kids to be test prepped?  My party will say out of one side of their mouth they want no tests or test opt out for parents, but then on the other side still retain legislation requiring tests in three subject every year from 3-8 and once in high school.  My party needs to take a step back and allow states and schools to provide a more well rounded report of school/student progress to our communities.  My dear legislators, we are not factories… kids are not widgets.. and sometimes they need more than just a test to show success.  This is not purely a rural issue but when you want to use a single measure to give one teacher (since we don’t have many) a bonus, that does not build a sense of unity and joint accountability.
  • Home Schooling and School Choice – Over the past decade my party has put forth bill after bill removing the restrictions on home schooling.  I do support the basic option, but I do believe they now allow home education with little to no accountability to anyone.  Is this the best option for the future work force in our rural communities?  In addition, since the ability to support your local schools derives significantly from state foundation aid, each and every child that home educates removes funding from your local school.  This despite the fact that home education families may still take part in special education services, transportation, academic courses of their choosing, and activities & athletics.    Then add in the concept of vouchers and I struggle to understand how the Republicans are supporting small rural communities.  This program would possibly draw students away from their community school, reducing funding more, and even allow home education families to receive a state payment.
  • Student Success Act – This is a positive for all public education in our country.  The intent to provide more state level control versus federal is a breath of fresh air after over a decade with NCLB.  However, the federal delegation appears to not be able to keep their hands off the wheel, pulling it back from the states already.  The promises of less federal regulation are eroded when I look at H.R. 610.  This is a bill in the US House putting vouches and private school requirements on states in order to get federal dollars.  Isn’t this the same thing we just argued against when Democrats were in control?

I could go on… reducing transportation funding (not helping), reducing health care services (not helping), and ignoring growing mental health needs (not helping).  My question again to my party is… Are you really supporting rural communities and their schools?


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 14-02-2017

The Ellendale School Board finalized a few of the budget reduction measures it will take next year to address a shortfall in funding.  The school district has been working on addressing the expected $250,000 shortfall since September.  This reduction in funding is due in large part to declining enrollment within the district but is also compounded by limited to reduced state funding projected next year.  Starting in September the Board has been working on a list of possible cuts while weighing the benefits and consequences of each cut.  Here is the list of cuts discussed and the status of each at this time.

Proposed Cut Savings Action By Board
Eliminate Health Careers Course $20,482.00 Board approved elimination at Feb meeting.
Postpone Replacement of Desks & Furniture $16,000.00 Board approved removing this from expenditure budget at Jan meeting
Do not replace any retirees $49,449.00 The board approved no filling any vacancies, at the time, during Jan meeting.
Elementary – Reducing Instructional Faculty  61,550 – 98,200  No action at this time.
Reconfigure to K-8 9-12 Building – Reducing Instructional Faculty in HS $53,474.00 The Board has directed the administration to present a revised schedule and staff reduction recommendation at the March meeting.
Postpone Bus Purchase $87,000.00 The Board removed this from the expenditure budget at the Jan meeting.
Technology Support Reduced Undetermined at this time No action at this time.
Reduce Extended Contract or Eliminate. $16,875.00 This has been withdrawn as an option.
Eliminate SRCTC Counselor & Hire Locally $1,700.00 Board has determined to continue partnership with SRCTC on this program.
Eliminate SRCTC Voc Ed Courses $54,500.00 The Board has reviewed and determined to continue this program at this time.
Oakes VocEd Bus $22,579.00 *same as previous
Eliminate 1 bus route and consider family trans. $22,702.00 Mr. F presented first information about family transportation at the Feb meeting.  The Board has approved 1st reading of a policy allowing the practice.  Still under consideration.
Reduce Athletic Coaching Staff Undetermined The Board has directed the administration to present to the Personnel and Finance Cmty projections if Golf and Cross County were eliminated.  No official Board action at this time.
eBook Reduction $3,500.00 This was reviewed by the Board and a new reduced contract has already been signed for 2017-18
No longer use Viewpoint and transition to SLDS $3,150.00 This program is being evaluated by the administration at this time.

Other items have been discussed but not included on the formal list as they were rejected right away.  However, it should be noted that there are reductions in areas still being considered that are not on this list.  As the expenditure budget for the upcoming year becomes more clear it will surely solidify the actions already taken or cause more considerations to be made.