BISMARCK, North Dakota — The school board in North Dakota’s largest city has decided to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, prompting a Republican lawmaker to pledge to push for a voucher program that would allow public money to pay private school tuition.
The Fargo School Board voted 7-2 on Wednesday to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, saying it doesn’t align with the district’s diversity code, largely because it says “under God.” in one sentence.
The state’s Republican Party called the board’s action “laughable” and “an affront to our American values.” Grand Forks State Sen. Scott Meyer said Friday he would begin work on a school voucher bill next week.
“These positions like those of the Fargo School Board simply do not align with North Dakota values,” he said. “The logical solution is to give parents this option to help educate their children.”
Nick Archuleta, who leads North Dakota United, the union that includes teachers and other public sector employees, said that even without action from the Fargo school board, he “fully expects at least a draft School Choice Act” when the Legislative Assembly reconvenes in January.
“Right now, every family in North Dakota has the right to send their children to public schools, parochial schools, private schools, or homeschool them – so they already have a choice of school,” Archuleta said. “What they are asking is that public money pay for these decisions. Our position has been and always will be that money from public tax revenue should be used for public purposes, including education of the audience.”
The legislature had failed to pass similar measures due to pressure from public school advocates, but Myers said he thinks the Fargo District’s decision could serve as a catalyst for passage.
Last year, GOP Governor Doug Burgum signed a bill to protect schools and teachers from lawsuits that could arise from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. Hoping to fend off legal challenges, the bill includes a requirement that the Ten Commandments be part of a display with other historical documents.