Dem-NPL Legislative Candidates Urge Action to Protect Educators, Support Staff 

BISMARCK, ND — A group of Dem-NPL legislative candidates urged the governor today to take action to protect teachers, support staff, and students at all North Dakota K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

They urged Gov. Doug Burgum to build off executive orders he has issued since March extending workers compensation for specific essential workers who contract or are exposed to COVID-19 through the course of employment. This executive order would extend the previous orders to include teachers and support staff at North Dakota K-12 public schools and professors and support staff at universities and colleges. The order would include teachers, paraprofessionals, maintenance staff, kitchen staff, bus drivers, and all support staff. 

It would also create a presumption that qualified employees contracted COVID-19 on the job, which would cut red tape and assure North Dakota workers access to benefits they deserve. The initiative would apply when all other COVID-19 benefits have been exhausted and only when telework is unavailable, meaning this wouldn’t apply if the individual can continue their work virtually.

Naomi Muscha, a retired teacher and current District 24 House candidate, said: 

“Students, teachers and support staff are happy and thankful that schools are in session in North Dakota, some fully face-to-face and others with varying degrees of virtual classes. Adding this presumption would cut through red tape and give assurance to all school employees they can stay working and safe.”

Zachary Tomczik, a University of North Dakota law student and District 42 House candidate, said:

“If we are able to give our educators and support staff time to recover without worrying about their finances  – they can leave when they need to and get better – to come back. This will keep the COVID-19 numbers down on campus and allow our university to continue the fight through these unusual times. As a city we cannot afford for the university to close its doors.”

Kari Breker, a former social worker, mother of school-age children, and District 16 Senate candidate, said:

“Ultimately, if parents aren’t at work, the economy grinds to a halt and stability of families suffer, and the crisis gets much worse overall. Parents need to know their children are safe and healthy and everything is being done to prevent the spread of the virus, but the expectations are high and the implementation is difficult. Making sure teachers, schools, and support staff have all the options available related to COVID-19, helps everyone make strong public health decisions, and will help assure parents that their kids are safe.”

John Pederson, Ph.D., professor of economics and history at Mayville State University and District 20 House candidate, said: 

“If we have to stop teaching face to face, think of what happens to all the workers we have providing food to our students, faculty, and staff on campus. Supporting university and college workers and employees means supporting our communities and it means supporting our economy.” 

Background on Gov. Burgum’s Executive Orders

Workers made eligible by previous Executive Orders: Paid or voluntary first responders, healthcare workers, funeral directors and others employed in a funeral home, individuals employed to provide direct care, treatment, and services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.