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Baesler Celebrates ND Educator Training Efforts

State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Wednesday celebrated North Dakota’s new educator development programs, which Gov. Doug Burgum referred to during his State of the State address at Dickinson State University.

“North Dakota has been leading the way to find solutions to a teacher shortage that exists in our state and across the country,” Baesler said. “One of our strategies is to increase the number of teachers who are being trained in their own communities.”

Money from federal COVID-19 pandemic relief, along with $3 million provided by the North Dakota Legislature and a $4.1 million U.S. Labor Department grant, will be used to train about 600 new certified teachers within the next two years, Baesler said.

There are differences among the programs, but the money will go mostly to pay tuition costs for teachers’ aides/paraprofessionals who want to get the academic credentials required to become full-fledged teachers. They will also be able to take the required classes online, which means they can keep working at their existing jobs, Baesler said.

The $3 million provided by SB2032, which was overwhelmingly approved by the state House and Senate, will pay for training about 260 paraprofessionals to become certified teachers in the next two years. Ten higher education providers, including six schools in North Dakota’s university system, have been approved to offer the instruction.

The U.S. Labor Department grant is to pay for teacher apprenticeships. Participating teachers’ aides can get tuition assistance, pay for teaching, and job training while they work to get the academic credentials they need to qualify as classroom teachers. In the first round of apprenticeship grants, $855,000 was distributed to four education providers.

The Labor Department has also designated North Dakota as the first state with a principal apprenticeship program, which provides tuition assistance for educators who want to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership. This is needed to be credentialed as a North Dakota school principal.

The NDDPI has awarded North Dakota State University a $150,000 competitive grant to defray tuition costs for apprentice principals. There are 11 apprentices so far from the Fargo, Central Cass and Wahpeton school districts, Baesler said.

Burgum’s State of the State speech, which lasted two hours and five minutes, touched on several education topics, including career and technical education, computer science and cybersecurity, an ongoing interim legislative study on school choice issues, the NDDPI’s Teacher of the Year program, a task force the governor recently appointed to study teacher recruitment and retention, and his planned Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education, scheduled for June 17 in Bismarck.