NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The state legislature approved a bill a few years ago with the goal to help teachers who were in rural areas around the state.

“That bill found moderate success by keeping those teachers in those positions in those rural areas,” said Joe Kolosky Director of School Approval and Opportunity for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

That bill expired this summer.

“The legislature is now looking to expand that bill moving forward. Especially with the teacher shortages we are having in the state,” said Kolosky.

This new bill focuses on all districts but will be specifically drawn up trying to help critical need areas for the state.

“Those positions will be special education, career technical education, fine arts, any position, especially in rural areas that are having trouble finding teachers,” said Kolosky.

Kolosky says in the past districts would hire a long-term sub to fill open teaching positions while they continue to look for a permanent employee.

But finding substitutes is just as much a challenge as finding full-time teachers.

“So, we explain it as an educational ecosystem,” said Kolosky. “You can’t find teachers and you can’t find subs because they are full-time teaching. It’s hard to find bus drivers, it’s hard to find cooks.”

But, a major reason for the shortage is still due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And now both urban and rural districts are struggling to keep schools fully staffed.

“The urban is having issues that the rural has been having for quite a few years,” said Kolosky.

The new proposal will look for ways to entice teachers to stay in their positions.

“Right now the proposal is different levels of funding,” said Kolosky. “So, one of the ways is if you are teaching in a rural area you would receive more funding for teacher loan forgiveness.”

As of right now none of this has been formally written, but, the North Dakota Legislature Interim Higher Education Committee voted to advance the proposal to introduce a bill to the North Dakota legislative session in 2023 earlier this month.