United Voices, Vol. 9 No. 1

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TALK! Conversation Guide for Talking to Peers About Joining ND United PAGE 6

Brooke Kopp, Bismarck Education Association President

United Voices

September 2022 – Vol. 9, No. 1 United Voices is published in the interest of public education and public services. Educators and public employees will always find its columns open to discussions and questions of vital concern to them. For more information about North Dakota United, visit our website at www.ndunited.org.


FREE PD Courses from NDU


Cutting Pensions is a Mistake


President’s Post


The Fight for NDPERS


Let’s Talk!


Loan Forgiveness


Scholarship and Grant Recipients


Four ND United Members Are Finalists for Teacher of the Year The four finalists for 2023 North Dakota Teacher of the Year were announced in July, and all four of them are members of North Dakota United. They are:

◆ ABBY DUBORD, first-grade teacher at Centennial Elementary in Bismarck

◆ MEGAN MARGERUM, third-grade

English/Language Arts teacher at Northern Cass Public School in Hunter

◆ IVONA TODOROVIC, English Language

instructor at Red River High in Grand Forks

◆ MEGAN WALD, business education instructor at Linton Public School

This year’s winner will be announced at a ceremony in the state Capitol on Sept. 19, 2022. Stay tuned to our website, www.ndunited.org, and social media accounts for special coverage of the ceremony, and check out the next issue of United Voices for profiles on all four finalists.

PRESIDENT Nick Archuleta VICE PRESIDENT OF EDUCATION Alicia Bata VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES Gary Feist NEA DIRECTOR Brenda Seehafer EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Chad Oban EDITORIAL STAFF Kelly Hagen – Communications Director Sarah Keiser – Special Projects Coordinator ADDRESS North Dakota United 301 N Fourth St Bismarck, ND 58501 To update your membership record, change your mailing address or end duplicate mailings, contact NDU Membership at 701-223-0450 or comments@ ndunited.org. To inquire about advertising in United Voices or to share your concerns, questions or news tips, contact UV editor Kelly Hagen by e-mail at kelly.hagen@ ndunited.org or call 701-557-0206.

United Voices is the official member publication of North Dakota United (NDU), an affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. It is published four times per year, with publishing dates in September, December, March and June. Postmaster: Send address changes by mail to North Dakota United, 301 N Fourth St, Bismarck, ND 58501. 2


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Professional Development Courses from North Dakota United We have some big news regarding our Professional Development offerings! The North Dakota United Foundation has generously donated the funds to provide FREE professional development courses to ALL NDU members beginning September 1st, 2022 through July 31st, 2023. This is an amazing benefit of membership! Each member will save $100 for every course taken. “Our goal for Professional Development through North Dakota United is to offer our educators the best opportunities for growth and learning we can,” said Amy Flicek, Director of Professional Development for North Dakota United. “When we offer our best to our educators, this helps them do their best for our students.” We also think you’ll love our new Professional Development website that highlights our extensive offerings! You’ll find course topics ranging from mindset, self-care, student engagement, student poverty

and engagement, behavior and classroom management, trauma, innovation, and more! “I think North Dakota United is going to provide the widest variety, the most interesting and the best PD in a flexible format that you’re going to get,” NDU member Tamara Waters-Wheeler said. “That’s why I think they should access it because there is no better deal. I mean if you’re a North Dakota United member anyway, it’s free! And even if you don’t need the credit, you’re not going to get such a good deal elsewhere and good PD!”

Visit www.courses.ndunited.org or scan the QR code to find a course that interests you. We think you’ll find it easier than ever to sign up and find courses that matter to you! If you have questions, please contact Amy Flicek at amy.flicek@ndunited.org. ndunited.org



President’s Post

By Nick Archuleta, nick.archuleta@ndunited.org


Our Future

Supporting the professionals at work on society’s most important mission The beginning of the school year is an exciting time as we welcome students to our schools to begin or continue their rigorous academic journeys. At ND United, it is our hope that our kids had a fun-filled summer, learning about the world around them and their place in it. We further hope that teachers return invigorated after a restful and restorative summer, despite having to work to advance their educations and at second jobs to help make ends meet. We are confident that when the year begins, North Dakota’s teachers and education support professionals will do what they have always done and put our students at the center of their intentions. They do this because they know that effective teaching and learning is predicated on great relationships between students and teachers, and teachers work hard every day to build and nurture those relationships. And why do teachers and ESP do what they do? They do it because they take to heart their obligation to educate every child that walks, runs, rolls or is carried through our schoolhouse doors. They know that we do not do anything as a society more important than educating our future, and they are singularly committed to that trust. 4


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So, while teachers return to their schools with the necessary passion to provide outstanding educational opportunities for their students, they are doing so in exceedingly challenging times, indeed. The teacher shortage that is gripping ND and the nation is real, persistent and comes with effects that will have long-term negative consequences for education, unless they are carefully mitigated. So, how did we get to this point? Like most vexing issues, there is not a single factor that one can point to as the cause of the teacher shortage. I would argue that the current situation can be traced to the 1983 release of “Nation at Risk,” an overwrought report which made the case for robust federal intervention in education to support vulnerable students, aid higher education and research, and protect civil rights. Of course, these suggestions were ignored and replaced with calls for vouchers, privatization and the elimination of the Department of Education — all things the report did not mention. Soon, public education became a mainstay on the political battlegrounds of the 1990s and 2000s resulting in the unfortunate George W. Bush administration plan — No Child Left Behind — and

Barack Obama’s equally misguided Race to the Top. Each of these policies dismissed the expertise of teachers, diminished their autonomy in the classroom, and deemphasized the importance of well-prepared professional educators. In more recent years, the debate about public education has become even more intense as education has taken its place in the crosshairs of culture warriors across the nation. We have seen school board meetings erupt in vitriol and occasional violence over issues like face masks, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Curriculum Transparency. Irresponsibly false claims that teachers were indoctrinating students to hate America were frequently heard. In North Dakota, CRT is not now, nor has it ever been a part of the curriculum in any school district. Coronavirus mitigation decisions were made by locally elected school boards acting in the best interests of their students. And if parents want to know what is taught in their child’s classroom, all they need to do is talk to their child’s teacher or their school’s administrator. No one is trying to be enigmatic when it comes to the education of our state’s children. Yet these facts have not stopped at least one out of state “think tank” from taking steps to move into North Dakota to sow discord and shake the well-deserved confidence parents have in our system of public education. The Center of the American Experiment, based in Minnesota, held a series of meetings to alarm parents that their schools are teaching CRT and gender theory (whatever that is), and that our school libraries are stocked with books promoting CRT even though

there is a law prohibiting CRT in ND’s PK-12 public schools. Is it any wonder teachers are either considering leaving or have left the profession? Believe me, many are and have. A January survey of ND United education members revealed that the number of teachers who, when hired, saw themselves retiring from the profession after a lengthy career fell from 90% to 41%. In the age 30-39 demographic, that number dropped from 91% to just 26%. So, what can be done to reverse course and recruit and retain the enthusiastic and high caliber teachers our kids need and deserve? I recently studied this issue as a task force member working with AFT. Based on our study, we developed recommendations that we believe will help mitigate the effects of the teacher shortage. Among other things, they include: ■ Revitalizing the educator pipeline. ■ Creating positive working and learning conditions. ■ Developing sustainable and commensurate compensation and benefits. ■ Utilizing our Union to accelerate change where change is required! In short, we must support teachers in their practice, respect their professionalism, pay them like the professionals they are, and promote the teaching and education support professions proportionate with the vital roles they play in our society. As I mentioned earlier, we do not do anything as a society more important than educating our future. Let’s insist that our great state does just that! ndunited.org



Let’s Talk! A guide for having quality conversations with your colleagues about the benefits of being part of our union. Thank you for being a member of North Dakota United, the state’s largest and most prominent union of educators and public employees. Together, we all work incredibly hard to give our state’s students and their families the very best education and public services possible. Members of our union are the most powerful recruiters for more of your colleagues to join us in North Dakota United. Remember that ND United is not a faceless entity, corporation or out-of-state policy group: IT’S YOU! NDU is 11,500 educators, public employees, retired workers and students of education, united as one for the good of us all. In this special edition of United Voices, our union’s official publication, we wanted to provide all of you with guidance on how you can effectively talk to your colleagues, whether they’re just starting their careers or they’re many years into the profession, about the benefits of joining North Dakota United. 6


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Here are some tips for how you can get the most out of this guide: > Don’t read this guide verbatim. The most compelling way to get your colleagues to join is through a one-on-one conversation where you are engaging and listening authentically. > Ask questions about the person and don’t be afraid to share a bit about yourself. Building a personal connection is the best way to recruit new members. > Emphasize personal experience and local wins that your local association has delivered.

Listening Dos > Listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time.

> Ask follow-up questions using “how,” “what” or “why.”

> Practice empathy. If someone

is sharing something in their work environment that upsets them, acknowledge and respect their experiences. > Give your recruit time to

think about and answer your questions. > Localize the conversation by talking about specific issues in your community and district.

Listening Don’ts > Don’t ask questions that are

statements. For example, don’t ask questions like: “Don’t you think smaller class sizes would be better?” > Don’t answer a question if you don’t know the answer. It’s ok to tell your recruit that you don’t know and will get back to them. > Don’t make union benefits the focal point of your conversation. Your conversations should be focused on the needs and concerns of the person you are recruiting. > Don’t overwhelm the person you are recruiting by listing all the issues that could be facing educators.

Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns I’d like to join but the fees are too high. Joining North Dakota United adds your voice to thousands of members just like us across the state and millions of educators across the country to accomplish things one educator, one bus driver, one janitor, or even one district can’t. When we negotiate as part of our local union, we can make significant changes, like increasing salaries and reducing class sizes — things that improve our daily lives. Unions are too political. That’s exactly why we meet regularly with lawmakers from

both parties to increase support for public education and services. There are some issues, like higher salaries and winning funding so that our schools can hire more staff to reduce class sizes and avoid understaffing, that require a strong collective voice to bring about the change we need in our classrooms. Our goal is not to advance a partisan agenda, but to make sure that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle give our members the tools we need so we can give students our best. I’m not sure what my colleagues or my community would think about my involvement in a union. First, you should know you have a legally protected right to join without retaliation. But beyond that, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. Your local association is a community of local educators and public employees, just like us, who improve our daily lives so we can give our students and the communities we live in our best efforts. More than 11,500 members have joined statewide because we work hand-in-hand with our administrators and lawmakers to give everyone a stronger voice at the table. Unions don’t look out for students. We became educators because we care about providing the best education possible and setting our students up for success. When educators are respected, appreciated, heard, and have the resources we need, we can give students our very best. With more members like you, we’ll have a stronger collective voice that can deliver a future where educators live better lives, and our students get the best education possible. ndunited.org



NDU Members Eligible for Loan Forgiveness Apply for PSLF before federal waiver deadline of Oct. 31st By Kelly Hagen, kelly.hagen@ndunited.org

As the costs for pursuing a degree in higher education have skyrocketed, more and more educators and public employees enter their professions buried in student loan debt. The burden of debt is enough to prevent countless young people from entering careers in public education and service, and drives far too many out of the profession. For Tamara Waters-Wheeler, a school psychologist for Mandan Public Schools and Morton County’s two special education units, her student loan debt was not as bad as it is for most, but it was substantial. “When I got my master’s for my education specialist, that was when I really got dinged,” she said. “It was almost $49,000... Tuition alone was about $10,000 per year. I worked, but I also had my first daughter during that time, so then I had to pay a little bit for daycare and things like that, too. So, I took out, not the max amount, but a lot.” The PSLF program dates back to an act of Congress in 2007 and was intended to allow public service workers to have their student loans forgiven after they’d made 10 years of payments, or 120 qualifying monthly payments. Too many hurdles were drawn into the plan from the start, and 98% of applicants were denied in the program’s history. Evan James, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Carl Ben Eielson 8


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Middle School in Fargo, had already applied for and received $17,500 in loan forgiveness from the Federal Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI) program. Entering his ninth year of teaching, he was especially tuned into the PSLF program and was preparing to apply, knowing how ineffective the program has been. “What I didn’t realize at the time,” James said, “was the way the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was designed, almost to the point where if you taught for ten years or you work for ten years in the public service industry … there’s a lot of intricacies tied up into that, that basically if you make your ten years or 120 payments, you kind of almost have paid off your loans anyway. So, there’s actually very little forgiveness that the federal government gives you.” In October of 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced major changes to PSLF, including a limited-time waiver to apply forgiveness eligibility to Federal Family Education Loan program or Perkins Loans.

That means applicants needed to consolidate their loans into the Direct Loan program and submit a PSLF form by Oct. 31, 2022. “You can easily do that if you call the Bank of North Dakota … or whoever you have you loan with, and you switch it over and then you can apply,” WatersWheeler said. “It was about three to four months, the whole process, but when I saw that money was gone, I couldn’t believe it. To be honest, I didn’t think it would ever happen just because I’d been denied already. So, I literally was so shocked at first, I didn’t believe it. … I called my husband, and I called my parents. I called my brother, too. I only had $16 grand left, but that’s a lot of money.” James said he had been following the PSLF program closely, especially after the announcement last year of the waiver and increased eligibility, and that he had hired a financial consultant to help him through the process of re-applying for loan forgiveness. He’s still waiting on the official confirmation but expects to receive just over $50,000 in loan forgiveness after he completes his tenth year of payments. Members of North Dakota United also have access to tools and resources that will help make the process of applying for forgiveness easier, through our affiliation with the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers.

TOP: Tamara Waters-Wheeler BOTTOM: Evan James

AFT offers free access to a tool called Summer, which is an online platform that will assist you in applying for and completing the PSLF process. More information on Summer is available online at www.aft.org/benefits/summer. Additionally, NEA is offering a full year of access to their Student Debt Navigator tool, powered by Savi, at no cost to members. Check out their website at www.nea.org/studentdebt-support for more information, and click on the Navigate Your Student Debt tab to learn how to sign up for personalized advice from experts on student debt and access to Savi’s e-filing function. When James heard about the AFT Summer program from a message sent out by NDU, he looked into the service and felt encouraged that the platform agreed with his adviser’s consult. “I had already hired a consultant, and the service through NDU is free,” James said. “For people who have not been following the whole process and aren’t super familiar with loan forgiveness, that service that NDU offers its members would be a huge benefit, I feel, if you’re carrying a pretty significant amount of student loan debt that you want to have forgiven. It’s a nice way to kind of ensure that.” ndunited.org



When job vacancies go unfilled, quality public services North Dakotans rely on are put in jeopardy. Roads go unplowed, special needs children go without the support they need, and phone calls go unanswered.

That's the amount of taxpayer dollars Alaska burned PER YEAR trying to solve the recruitment issue caused by ending their pension program.**

73% of state and local workers said they would consider leaving their jobs if the legislature cut pension benefits.*

74% of Millennials say that pensions are a major reason why they chose a public sector job in the first place.*

Cutting pensions didn’t work in Alaska, Florida, or Oklahoma. ND Legislators refuse to listen to these failures.

Public employees ND legislators plan to made concessions treat new public to secure their service workers worse retirement, but ND than existing workers legislators refuse to who do the same jobs. meet them halfway.

Legislators are trying to say that millennial workers prefer 401Ks to pensions, BUT 98% of ND millennial workers chose a pension plan over a 401K when they had the chance.***

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP FOR NDPERS. Vote for pro-union, pro-public service, pro-education individuals. Join your union. NDU membership is available to teachers, ESPs, city & county employees, higher ed support staff, & most state employees. Be an ally. All North Dakotans rely on quality public services like snow plowing. Let us know you're an ally by scanning the QR code above. 10


ND United Voices

If you're a city, state or county employee, talk to your coworkers about standing up for NDPERS and your pension benefits. Join our monthly updates. NDU tracks what the special committee tasked with ending ND pensions is up to. We share this info every month via Zoom. Scan the QR code above to sign up.

Public Education Perspectives Headline By Gary Feist


The Fight for NDPERS North Dakota’s public employees provide quality services every day by taking care of the most vulnerable, maintaining our roads, keeping the public healthy and safe, as well as educating our children, just to name a few. It has been a tough couple for years for all of us because of the pandemic, staffing shortages, rising prices, and a divided state and nation due to intolerance of others. North Dakota United enables public employees with shared values to come together to advocate for the common good and the well-being of the employees who are working to make North Dakota great. The strength of North Dakota United is based on your membership and participation in advocating for the issues that are important to all of us. With the attacks on public services, we need to work extra hard to make sure our issues are heard as the 2022 election approaches and the legislature convenes to make decisions that will be affecting the state’s ability to recruit and retain staff for all public services. One of the biggest fights will be persevering the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System’s defined benefit pension plan. The defined benefit plan provides a guaranteed monthly payment providing financial stability and security to the

employee and the communities in which they live. Over the past 14 months the Legislature has been studying how to close the plan to new hires. Closing the plan will result in the fund becoming unstable over time unless significant additional contributions are made by the state and/or the employees in the plan. The legislature’s actuary told the interim committee that closing the plan would be the biggest waste of taxpayers’ money. NDU needs all public employees to raise their voice on this issue to make sure the defined benefit plan is available for future employees. The retirement plan is a significant recruiting tool. With public employee salaries falling behind the market for similar jobs in the private sector, the benefit package will be the only tool the state will have to be competitive in maintaining its workforce. You can help win the fight by participating in an NDU pension meeting, talking to your coworkers, and reaching out to your legislators so they know how important the defined benefit plan is to you and the state’s ability to maintain its workforce. Contact NDU to join the fight! ndunited.org



Investment in the


NDU Foundation announces recipients of 2022 scholarships and grants In May the NDU Foundation announced that 35 North Dakota United members and dependents had been selected to receive more than $35,000 total in scholarships and grants.

Here is the complete list of 2022 NDU Foundation scholarship and grant recipients: NDU EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP Malayna Barendt Lake Region State College Ashley Kaiser University of Mary Rory Neary University of Mary NDU FOUNDATION ETHNIC MINORITY SCHOLARSHIP Stetson Baker Turtle Mountain Community College Rusty Dan Dickinson State Oliva Johnston Bismarck State College Madalyn LaVallie University of Minnesota Moorhead Gillian Lunde Josef’s School of Hair, Skin, & Body in Grand Forks NDU MEMBER/DEPENDENT SCHOLARSHIP Madison Elliott Minot State Lauren Feist North Dakota State Alyssa Kemp Drexel University (PA) Chanci Kraft Black Hills State (SD) Mason Lemer Minot State Megan Rising Bismarck State College Alexandra Smith North Dakota State Ryan Strande Mayville State Skylar Uglem North Dakota State NDU WORKPLACE INNOVATION GRANT Jacqueline Glasser Dickinson Heather Hintz Bismarck 12


ND United Voices

CINDY & GARY RATH EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP Shelby Follman Mayville State Jordan Rohrbach Valley City State HALSTENSON FAMILY MUSIC SCHOLARSHIP Jesslyn Hall (Hazen) Boston Conservatory at Berklee (MA) HORACE MANN ND AGENTS GRADUATE EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP Lisa Gusewelle University of North Dakota David Locken University of North Dakota Jarred Wagner Northwest Missouri State JOSEPH A. WESTBY LEADERSHIP AWARD Jared Adams Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota LES SNAVELY MEMORIAL EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP Brooklyn Bang Dickinson State Kendra Kaufman Dickinson State RON & ANN ANSTROM SCHOLARSHIP Candace Brannan Murray State University (KY) Lora Horner Valley City State Sarah Peeters Valley City State DOUBLE SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS CINDY & GARY RATH EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP AND NDU EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP Katelyn Johnson Mayville State Brooke Peterson University of Mary CRIPPS SPECIAL EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP AND OBAN SPECIAL EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIP Kelsey Kreidt Minot State Charles McWethy University of North Dakota The NDU Foundation offers 11 scholarship and grant programs currently, each specifically designed for NDU members and their dependents. For more information about each of these programs, due dates, and how to apply please visit: ndunited.org



on a great school year! As you head into the new school year, we want to thank you for all you do to shape the future through your gift of teaching. We know teaching is more than lesson plans and supplies – it’s giving your whole heart, and we’re so happy you answered the call to teach. Just as your students can count on you to be in their corner, you can count on us to be in yours. To learn more, contact your local Horace Mann representative or visit horacemann.com.

Horace Mann Service Corporation and certain of its affiliates (Horace Mann) enter into agreements with educational associations where Horace Mann pays the association to provide services aimed at familiarizing association members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services. For more information, email your inquiry to association.relations@horacemann.com. AM-C04657 (May 22)



ND United Voices


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Permit #222 Bismarck, ND 58501

North Dakota United 301 N 4th St Bismarck, ND 58501-4020


We have a travel scholarship to Washington D.C. available.

Find out more at bit.ly/ndstudies-ndu