BISMARCK, N.D., Sept. 7, 2023 -- North Dakota’s Emergency Commission on Thursday unanimously approved the Department of Public Instruction’s request to use more than $4 million in grants to strengthen state efforts to help classroom paraprofessionals become full-fledged teachers.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction $4.031 million in two grants to pay for teacher apprenticeships, State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Thursday.
The money will provide tuition assistance and on-the-job training for classroom aides who want to obtain the academic credentials they need to become licensed teachers, at a time when many schools have been scrambling to find instructors.
The Emergency Commission’s endorsement was needed before the Labor Department funds could be spent. The commission reviews state agency spending requests that were not authorized by the Legislature.
The North Dakota Legislature has already provided $3 million for the teacher apprenticeship program, which became available July 1. The NDDPI is seeking agreements with North Dakota colleges and universities to implement the initiative.
“NDDPI is the only state education agency in the nation to have been awarded these Labor Department funds and intends to use them solely for teacher apprenticeships,” Baesler said. Of the $4.031 million, North Dakota was awarded $3.72 million as part of a competitive process in which only seven states received money.
Earlier in July, North Dakota also became the first state to gain federal approval to include aspiring school principals in its apprenticeship initiative. The Department of Public Instruction awarded North Dakota State University a $150,000 competitive grant to defray tuition costs for assistant principals who want to earn a master’s degree in school leadership, which is a prerequisite for advancement as a school principal.
Baesler said the NDDPI intends to pursue federal grants for the principal apprenticeship program once funds become available. “Our achievement in winning approval for principal apprenticeships can unlock federal support and clear the way for other states who want to join this effort,” Baesler said.
The Emergency Commission is made up of Gov. Doug Burgum; Secretary of State Michael Howe; the state House and Senate’s majority leaders, Rep. Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, and Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot; and the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees, Rep. Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown, and Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston.