Estimate For New Students In Williston Was Only Off By 80%
Funding for western communities has become a hot-button political issue here in North Dakota, with Democrats accusing Republicans of not spending enough fast enough out west when it comes to roads, schools, etc., etc.
Giving a level of credibility to these claims are assumptions and projections made by local officials about growth in western communities, which often make it sound as though funding really has been inadequate. Case in point, school funding in Williston which is in the heart of the oil patch.
Earlier this summer Williston officials were claiming that they needed proposals for state education funding to double, using the word “crisis” to describe their predicament and estimating that they were going to be getting as many as 1,200 new students.
Turns out that was just a bit of an exaggeration. Their estimate was off by a whopping 80%, with the Williston schools only seeing an enrollment increase of 229 students.
That’s still a big increase – 8.8% over the previous year’s enrollment – but hard the “crisis” local officials made it out to be earlier this year.
Now, I’m sympathetic to the needs of western communities who have seen dramatic increases in enrollment, but might Williston officials have been guilty of trying to leverage the excitement over the oil boom and the politics of western infrastructure/education spending into bigger budget growth than was strictly warranted?
I think so. Which is a lesson for these political debates over western funding. Just because there’s an oil boom on doesn’t excuse indiscriminate spending. Just because these communities have oil impacts doesn’t make their leaders any less susceptible to the typical sort of budget-padding they’re usually guilty of.Tags: Education, North Dakota News, williston