For Immediate Release
Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
BISMARCK, N.D., Aug. 25, 2016 – School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said she is grateful that a state trust fund is expected to increase its support for North Dakota education by $80.5 million in the next two years, which may be the largest increase in state history.
Recent estimates forecast that the Common Schools Trust Fund will provide $286.6 million for local schools during the 2017-19 biennium, a 39 percent increase over the present aid figure of $206.1 million. The fund’s contribution to education has more than tripled in the last decade.
The trust fund money is included in a state formula that is used to calculate aid payments to school districts. Schools received $9,365 per student during the 2015-16 school year. The payment is rising to $9,646 this fall.
Baesler said the rise in the trust fund’s contribution will help the Legislature meet its commitment to education spending while providing a lesser drawdown from North Dakota’s general fund. The general fund provides most of the state’s aid to K-12 schools. North Dakota’s general fund revenue growth has slowed because of lower commodity prices.
“This trust fund revenue is vital to our schools across North Dakota, especially during a time when our general fund revenue growth is slowing down,” Baesler said. “The increase from the Common Schools Trust Fund helps to take the pressure off the general fund.”
Revenues for the Common Schools Trust Fund come from payments for energy exploration and production on state lands, income from leasing land for cattle grazing, money from a national tobacco lawsuit settlement, and investment earnings. Helped by robust oil revenues and investment returns, the fund has grown from $1.22 billion in 2010 to more than $3.5 billion today.
Baesler is a member of the Board of University and School Lands, which oversees the fund and decides on how its assets are invested. Its other members are Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Treasurer Kelly Schmidt. Dalrymple is chairman of the board.
The expected $286.6 million trust fund contribution to North Dakota schools in 2017-19 is much larger than any disbursement in the last 20 years, and is almost certainly the largest in state history. Twenty years ago, the biennial payment was $46.4 million. During the 2009-11 biennium, it was $77.2 million.