Josh Kramer

Like the Kramer family, schools have a back-to-school list. Schools provide many things to ensure a well-rounded, fulfilling educational experience. So, let’s break it down.

• Electricity

You knew I was going to say it. Electricity lights classrooms, provides comfortable temperatures, refrigerates food and powers computers and classroom technology.

• Teachers
I know what you are thinking: “Of course, we need teachers.” But ask any school administrator, and I’ll bet they have a story or two, or dozens, about the scramble they’re in to fill their roster of educators, substitute teachers, bus drivers, cooks, counselors and support staff to operate their schools this year. The challenge is daunting.

I admire the commitment educators have to their students amid a drastic decline in new teachers entering the profession and experienced teachers exiting the profession. Please read our feature stories on teacher recruitment and retention, page 6, and innovative solutions being pursued to ensure all students have access to high-quality teachers, page 10. And, I encourage you to go one step further and listen to the “Educator Retention Series” of the “Education Mindset” podcast, which illustrates the urgency of this growing problem in our local schools.

• Support
Schools and the people who fill them need to be supported, because education is vital to our society’s success. Support comes in many forms.

The most tangible is financial. Inflationary pressures today affect us all, including our schools. Let’s face it: Most goods and services cost much more today than 10 or 20 years ago.

School district operations are funded through a combination of federal, state and local support. Each leg of the stool is critical and, in my opinion, should be maintained. A windfall for one leg is not a guarantee the other two legs will never be needed in the future. We simply can’t risk the education of our kids on the strength of a two-legged stool.

Aside from financial support, there are other ways to support our local schools. Pay attention at school board meetings (and not only when things might be going wrong), donate supplies, lend your time, be patient and show up at school events. These are all ways to show students and school staff you care.

As electric cooperatives, we’ve learned how to use every tool in the toolbox to provide quality, low-cost power to our members. And, we’ve learned it would be an impossible task without the support of our members, policymakers, partners, other cooperatives and industry partners.

Sometimes, we don’t know what we have until we risk losing it. Like electricity, when the power goes out. Or an ag education class, when a teacher can’t be hired. As a new school year begins, let’s all work together to keep the “lights” on in our schools.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at