BISMARCK, N.D., July 7, 2020 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said North Dakota’s primary education trust fund will provide $419.3 million for K-12 public schools in the next two years, a 14.3 percent increase from existing spending.
The Common Schools Trust Fund is financed by revenue from state trust lands, including energy taxes, lease and royalty payments, and leasing of agricultural land. In the last eight years, it has provided $991.5 million for the education of North Dakota students. The latest payment, which will be distributed during the 2021-23 biennium, will push that total to $1.41 billion over a decade.
Low prices for oil and farm commodities, coupled with the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have hammered state revenues. Baesler said the increase in the Common Schools Trust Fund payments should cushion any possible impact on state aid to schools.
“This fund has been a sustainable and robust source of support for the education of our students,” Baesler said. “It has helped to increase our state aid for education, which is vitally important at a time when enrollment has been rising.”
North Dakota’s student enrollment was 94,729 during the 2010-11 school year. It was 112,858 during the 2019-20 school year – an increase of 19.1 percent.
Baesler is one of the five members of the Board of University and School Lands. It oversees the Common Schools Trust Fund and a dozen other education trusts, which collectively hold assets of about $6 billion. The largest of the trusts is the Common Schools Trust Fund, which had $4.9 billion in assets on Dec. 31, 2019. The funds hold investments in stocks, bonds, real estate, and other assets.
Gov. Doug Burgum is chairman of the Board of University and School Lands, which also includes Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and Secretary of State Al Jaeger.
Jodi Smith, Commissioner and Secretary of the Board of University and School Lands, said the Common Schools Trust Fund’s support of North Dakota education ranks in the top tier among states with similar funds.
“The work the Land Board does every day turns funds received from the management of valuable natural resources into textbooks for students,” Smith said. “We recognize that the students of today are the future of North Dakota.”