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Rep Verdell Jackson House Dist 79
School Lawsuit Questions School Spending: Click Here



Recently, a lawsuit initiated court action to force the legislature to provide $300 million more per year for K-12 schools.  Taxpayers need and deserve clear, accurate information about school spending in order to understand the impact this lawsuit could have.  The facts presented below are extracted from information from Legislative Services.  Data is from the Office of Public Instruction and the Statistical Abstract of the U.S.  Spending figures exclude the following funds:  building, adult education, enterprise (such as ticket sales) and trust (donated).


SCHOOL LAWSUIT:  It is unfortunate that the court has taken the responsibility for deciding the funding level of education.  The state legislature has placed a high priority on funding education and did give education an increase when most of the other areas took cuts to balance the budget during the last session.  Human services and safety are also high priorities.  As a state and a nation we are committed to provide safety to our citizens and food, shelter and health care to the needy.  The constitution gives the job of balancing these competing needs to the legislature, not to special interest groups or to the court system.


LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS:  Local funding and strong family values motivate parents to hold their local schools accountable for student achievement and efficiency.  Parents in Montana participate in their schools and insist on high achievement. Montanas students continue to remain in the upper 10% in relation to the other states.  For example, Montana ranked 3rd on the Morgan Quitno study (2002) which ranked all states on 21 factors, including proficiency in reading and math.


THE BIG PICTURE:  For 2001, Montana ranked 25th which is right in the middle when compared with the other states on total spending per student per year.  Average personal income ($23,963) ranks 47th as does teacher pay ($33,249).  Average class size (13.6 students per teacher) ranks 16th (Statistical Abstract of U.S.). 


TOTAL SPENDING:  Montanas statewide total spending for K-12 schools from 1994-2002 increased from $850 million per year to $1.096 billion {state (52%), local (35%) & federal (13%)}.  This increase of over $246 million during this period is an average increase of $30.8 million per year.  Between 2001 and 2002, the increase was $37.1 million or 3.5%.  The total spending increase from 1994 to 2002 compared with the CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation rate of 2.5% per year exceeded inflation by $60 million by 2002.  The CPI measures the purchasing power of the dollar.


STUDENT ENROLLMENT/STAFFING:  Student enrollment peaked in 1996 at 165,547 students and declined to 151,947 by 2002 for a total net loss of 13,600 students.  Between 2001 and 2002 the loss was 2,928 students.  The number of teachers in 1996 was 10,079 and increased to 10,411 by 2002.  The decrease between 2001 and 2002 was 3 teachers.  Total school professional staff (teachers, administrators, counselors, librarians, etc.) was 11,705 in 1996 and increased to 12,097 by 2002.

SPENDING PER STUDENT:  Average spending per student increased more than total spending because 13,600 fewer students attend the K-12 system since 1996.  In 1994, $5,216 was spent per student.  In 2002 that figure was $7,210 for an average increase of $249 per student per year.  Between 2001 and 2002 the increase was $376 per student or 5.5%.  An additional $300 million from the lawsuit would make this figure $9,185 per student which would make Montana 4th in expenditure per student right under New Jersey.  New York is 1st at $9,797.


You may visit my website to view the spending of your district for the last 6 years:  vjackmt.tripod.com.   You will find that no school budgets decreased from one year to the next unless there was a decrease in the number of students.  Remarks made about budget cuts are made in relation to the new budget that the school district desires, not a cut in the amount received the year before.


Representative Verdell Jackson

Kalispell, 756-8344