Baesler Praises Increased Trust Fund Support for ND Schools

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
Office: 701-328-2247
Cell: 701-400-8557

BISMARCK, N.D., Nov. 23, 2018 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said North Dakota’s largest education trust fund will provide $366.8 million for the state’s public schools in the next two years, which is about $1,600 per student.

The Common Schools Trust Fund’s contribution for the 2019-21 biennium represents an increase of $78.5 million, or 27.2 percent, from the current two-year budget period, Baesler said. The trust fund’s biennial contributions to schools have almost quadrupled since 2011.

The increase will help the Legislature as it attempts to maintain North Dakota’s present level of state aid to schools, Baesler said. Most of that aid comes from North Dakota’s general fund, which is financed largely by sales and income taxes.

Sales and income tax revenue growth has slowed dramatically in recent years, but increased Common Schools Trust Fund contributions – along with money from a separate fund, called the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund – have helped the Legislature maintain the state’s school aid payment at $9,646 per student for the past three years.

"The growth of the Common Schools Trust Fund has helped North Dakota maintain its support for our public schools, during a time when our enrollments are growing," Baesler said. "We are blessed to have it as a healthy, sustainable revenue source."

North Dakota’s current estimated public school enrollment is 110,842 in grades kindergarten through 12. Enrollment is projected to grow by almost 5 percent, to 116,347, by 2021.

State aid payments to North Dakota schools are calculated using a formula set by the Legislature. Public schools are getting $1.935 billion in "integrated formula payments" during the current 2017-19 state budget period. The Common Schools Trust Fund now supplies 15 percent of that amount, and its share could rise to more than 18 percent in 2019-21.

Baesler is a member of the state Board of University and School Lands, which manages the Common Schools Trust Fund. The board’s other members are Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Gov. Doug Burgum, who is the board’s chairman.

The Common Schools Trust Fund is financed by revenue from state lands, including coal, oil and gas royalty and lease payments, oil taxes, and leasing of grazing land for cattle. It has more than $4.5 billion in assets, which are invested in a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments.