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North Dakota

Our lead ally in North Dakota, Foundation for a Healthy North Dakota, works to empower communities in all 53 counties to promote health and wellness.  By re-establishing trust at the local level around public health issues, they seek to continue the great North Dakota traditions of self-determination, working beyond differences, and wanting the best for one another.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 29% (26,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 32% (29,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed the state’s biennium budget on May 9. The two-year budget for fiscal 2024-2025 calls for $19.6 billion in total spending over the course of the biennium (a 15.8 percent increase over the fiscal 2022-2023 biennium) and $6.1 billion in general fund spending (a 22.1 percent increase over the fiscal 2022-2023 biennium). The general fund beginning fund balance is projected at $1.2 billion at the start of the fiscal 2024-2025 biennium. Total general fund revenues are estimated to be $4.97 billion, a decline of 3.5 percent from fiscal 2022-2023’s forecasted level. The budget also assumes a general fund ending balance of $71.5 million, while the budget stabilization fund is forecasted to be $914.4 million at the end of the biennium .3

Largest Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers) (FY 2021):4

    • Severance Taxes: $2,132 per capita
    • Charges: $1,650 per capita
    • Property Taxes: $1,565 per capita

North Dakota’s largest source of per capita revenue in 2021 was severance taxes, which tax the extraction of natural resources such as oil and natural gas. Severance tax revenue is extremely volatile and can quickly rise and fall with the price and production of natural resources. Charges are public payments connected with a specific government service, such as tuition paid to a state university, payments to a public hospital, or highway tolls. 

Political Alignment: Aligned Republican

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Republican.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Five

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Legislature-Initiated State Statutes – Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated State Statutes – Earns a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in North Dakota.
    • Veto Referenda – When citizens of North Dakota disagree with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, they can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

The 2023 session saw progress made regarding children’s health and the interests of families, specifically in the areas of school meals, childcare, the child welfare system, mental health, and access to services. 

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

School Meal Expansion and Prevention of School Meal Shaming (SB2284) includes an allocation of $6 million to provide free school meals to students, whose household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, for the next two school years. It is estimated that the expanded eligibility made possible by this one-time funding will help 10,000 more students to receive free school meals. HB1494 aimed to prevent school meal shaming. It created more protections for students who participate in the free or reduced-price school meals and students with unpaid school meal balances. Meals will continue to be provided to students with an unpaid balance. Further, schools cannot identify or stigmatize recipients of free or reduced-price meals nor can participation in a school event be prohibited due to an unpaid balance.

State ICWA Legislation  (HB1536) codified the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into state law. American Indian children are overrepresented in the North Dakota foster care system and this overrepresentation is a product of past policies that forcibly removed American Indian children from their families as well as ongoing discrimination that resulted in inconsistent application of ICWA. The purpose of ICWA is “…to protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture… “

Major Investment in the Child Care System (HB1540) includes a one-time investment of $66 million over the next few years for child care assistance and early childhood services. It also sets eligibility guidelines for the childcare-assistance program. Income eligibility for the childcare assistance program is currently set at 85% of the state median. Eligibility will drop to 75% of the state median income no later than July 1, 2025, but may be sooner based on funding. SB2012 involved many aspects including doing away with the expiration date, set for the year 2025, for the Best in Class grants that fund early childhood programs for four-year-old children. $14.4 million was allocated for evidence-based programs for four-year-old children, including $12 million to expand the Best in Class grants and $2.4 million to continue the Waterford Upstart Early Learning program. This bill also included a proposal for a legislative management study on early childhood.

Medicaid Coverage Expansion and Access to Services (SB2181) increased income eligibility from 162% to 175% of the federal poverty level for pregnant participants. It also expanded postpartum coverage to 12 months post-birth, rather than 60 days. This expanded coverage is estimated to reach hundreds of more pregnant women. SB2012 involved other aspects and directives related to access of services to include DHHS being tasked with developing a website for parents to utilize as a resource that includes info on social services, financial assistance, maternal and childbirth services, etc. The intent is for this website to serve as a central hub that will hopefully streamline the process for parents in accessing parenting information and info on public benefits and how to apply.

Averting Efforts That Would Weaken Immunization Policy – In North Dakota Quite a few bills were introduced to the North Dakota legislature with potentially devastating consequences for families’ health and wellness. Some of the bills aimed to eliminate vaccination requirements in schools, healthcare settings and more places where diseases spread. One bill even sought to limit parental freedom to vaccinate one’s own child(ren) by attempting to criminalize vaccine requirements. Fortunately, most of these bills did not pass and those that did (HB1502 and SB2274) involve amendments that will not result in the very harmful impacts as the initial proposals likely would have caused.

Additional areas or advocacy involved tasked legislative studies that aim to gain insight on areas that require continued focus to include early childhood programs, background checks for potential childcare employees, the juvenile justice system that will need a focus on racial equity, and mental health care for children and if current services and resources meet the need in our state. These studies are the first steps that will hopefully lead to improved outcomes for children and families.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in North Dakota, Foundation for a Healthy North Dakota, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child and
Maternal Health

Infant and Child Health

Maternal Health





Early Childhood Infratructure


North Dakota Advocates Are Building A Movement for Child Wellness Through Trust—One Community at a Time

The Foundation for a Healthy North Dakota (FHND) and their public interest communications firm have developed a silver bullet strategy for empowering communities to take charge of child wellness and define what community health looks like. They listen. Read how they turned this inquiry into outreach that was responsive to communities’ needs and perspectives and grounded in their unique contexts.

Read More »


1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:

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North Dakota
North Dakota

More State Demographic Data:

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North Dakota