Rep. Verdell Jackson


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Education funding is an issue. The following articles deal with this issue.

Total cost of education compared to other states.


How much can we afford for K-12 education

The state legislature is mandated by law to prepare a balanced budget. A balanced budget includes a reasonable ending fund balance to use as cushion for emergencies such a summer fires. With a 5.8 billion dollar budget, the target for the ending fund balance for this biennium is $40 to 60 million. This amount leaves little room for error or unexpected expenses. When the House finished House Bill 2, the ending fund balance was about $36 million and HB 121, the only surviving school funding bill, had 21 million increase in state funds for K-12. 8 had an increase for education. During House action last week an amendment was added to double the education funding to $42 million additional dollars. The bill was then transferred to House Tax committee before approval to keep it alive to allow negotiations. The amendment dropped the ending fund balance to less than 19 million on the 5.8 billion dollar budget. A bipartisan committee was assigned to work on HB121 and present their plan to the House tax committee. The plan was to retain the full $42 million of education funding in the bill and to triple the taxes on tobacco products to fund half of it. The tax was to go out to a vote by the people. The plan was defeated by a tie vote and HB 121 was passed out of committee back to the House with the original 21 million in it.

How much is enough for K-12

To answer this question Legislative Services prepared information that showed that the the statewide total spending of K-12 schools from 1994-2000 was $850,379,000 to $1,003,976,000. The average increase for this period of time is 25 million per year. The biennial increase in K-12 as is now in HB121 (21 million) is about 71 million (35 ) when all sources of funds are combined: 21 state funds, 43 Federal funds and 6 million mandated local funds.

Educational spending compared to other statesl

"The rest of the story"

The charts distributed to Legislators in their transition packets have been the focus of criticism from educational lobbyists. The charts have been labeled as misleading and incomplete, but never as inaccurate.

The purpose of the charts is to show in general Montanas total funding of K-12 education over a period of six years. Time did not permit the addition of more years. The data are total K-1 spending each year, excluding funds that would distort comparisons: building funds (e.g. bond proceeds), enterprise funds (e. g. sales of items or ticket sales), trust funds (e. g. donated funds), and adult education. The charts provide accurate data from which policy decisions can be made. The charts themselves do not advocate funding increases or decreases, but only give an overall picture of past funding for perspective. The charts are not intended to show the particular financial problems that an individual school may be experiencing.

The charts show total school funding trends from 1994-2000 for average total funding per student per year compared with total school enrollment and for funding increases compared with general inflation of 2 % per year. Also, for 1998, comparisons were made for total funding per student per year among 15 western states (Montana ranked 5th from the top) and for funding based on average ability to pay, computed by dividing the average Montana wage by the funding per student. Montana ranked 2nd from the top.
The individual charts show:

1. The statewide total spending of K-12 schools from 1994-2000 ($850,379,000 to $1,003,976,000).
2. The statewide average spending per student per year for 1994 ($5,216) to 2000 ($6,372) compared with an enrollment decline of 8,000 students.
3. Total spending increase from 1994 to 2000 compared with general inflation of (2 %). Total spending exceeded inflation in year 2000 by $20 million.
4. Spending per student per year compared with general inflation of 2 % each year. In year 2000, per student per year spending exceeded inflation by $336.
5. A comparison with 14 states of total expenditures per student per year for 1998. Montana ranked 5th from the top.
6. A relative ability to pay comparison with 14 western states for 1998 based on dividing average income per worker by average spending per student. Montana came in 2nd from the top.
7. A 1998 comparison was made between average class size and average teacher pay in 14 western states. Montana ranked 4th from the bottom in teacher pay and 6th from the bottom in average class size.
It is beyond the scope of this data to deal with individual school problems based on regulations which mandate staffing and set maximum class sizes; special education unfunded mandates, increase in percentage of non teaching staff to teachers, escalating energy costs, declining enrollment, etc.