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Senate panel cuts $4 million in proposed school funding

2011-02-11T00:38:00Z Senate panel cuts $4 million in proposed school fundingBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
February 11, 2011 12:38 am  • 

The Republican majority on an education subcommittee on Thursday cut $4 million in proposed state funding for programs ranging from those for gifted and talented students to providing vocational education, a move that jeopardizes an equivalent amount of federal money.

Earlier in the day, the GOP majority also chopped $1.3 million in state funds for free and reduced-cost school lunches and breakfasts for Montana’s needy children. That would have cost the state $33 million in federal funds, which help provide 3.5 million school lunches and 1.5 million school breakfasts to Montana students.

After learning of the loss of the federal school lunch money, Republicans quickly reversed themselves and restored the state appropriation.

The Democratic minority on the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education opposed the Republican motions.

Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, who led the attempt to cut the funding for the K-12 programs, said he and some other Republicans are working behind the scenes on a new school funding plan and waiting to see updated revenue estimates.

Democrats pressed Jones for details, but he was tight-lipped, except to say there would be funding for some of the programs cut Thursday.

“We have a general conceptual plan of reassembly (of the budget) to propose a plan of educational excellence,” Jones said.

He suggested some of it would be patterned somewhat after President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, which is a national competition for states to undertake school reforms.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, who attended the meeting, said she knew nothing of Jones’ plan and that neither she nor her staff had been consulted.

“I’m excited for them to wave the magic handkerchief and pull a rabbit out of the hat to come up with their vision for education,” Juneau said. “Hopefully their rabbit may provide a plan. What I’m afraid of is the rabbit may not have an eye for a vision.”

Jones said he hopes the Legislature will see some improved state revenue estimates in the coming days. The revenue estimates adopted unanimously by an interim legislative committee in mid-November are now about $104 million less than what Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s budget office projected in mid-December.

The House Taxation Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on House Joint Resolution 2, which contains the legislative revenue estimates, which are usually modified during a session.

“I guess I’m getting frustrated at the slow progress of revenue estimates,” said Rep. Bob Mehlhoff, D-Great Falls. “We need to get some projections so we can move forward.”

Sen. Bob Hawks, D-Bozeman, asked Jones at what point the new Republican school funding plan will emerge and when it will come before the subcommittee.

Jones said the bill drafters have not been able to work on it yet because they have to finish writing general legislation. He said it would be a revenue bill, which has a later deadline, and would be introduced in the Senate by him.

“I think he has good intentions,” Hawks said, but added, “We need the concepts out so we can talk about the concepts.”

Jones said the concepts are not fully developed yet, but that he and others are working at getting them out.

Meanwhile, the following education programs were not funded Thursday: gifted and talented, secondary vocational education, adult vocational education, special education maintenance of effort and in-state residential treatment for some students.

The combined cuts of these programs reduced Juneau’s state general fund budget by about $4 million. If they were to stand, the state would lose federal funding of about the same amount, she said.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. SanityNow
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    SanityNow - February 12, 2011 3:30 pm
    You are always dissing educators. Do you have any idea how many special needs students we have in our schools and how much they cost? We are getting more and more fragile and disabled students each year. A while back we had ONE special education preschool class, now we have THREE. And we could use more! These little boys and girls deserve the best we can give them to help them succeed! Parents expect the public schools to do all they can to help their child succeed. And I have to say that the majority of our Helena teachers do an excellent job. If you think being a teacher is so easy, why don't you get your degree and join us? As for working "only" nine months........teachers have to earn college credits every 5 years in order to maintain their certification and many work throughout the summer working on their master's degrees, too. Please don't say we are overpaid. I work hard at my job and have a lot of responsibilities - I love the kids and that's why I do what I do. Come to our schools and volunteer - see the kinds of kids we have in our schools... and maybe we might earn a bit of respect from you.
  2. Purple
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    Purple - February 12, 2011 1:28 am
    farside said: "That's just great! Here they come,can you spell "school levy?""

    Hell, they don't need budget cuts to call for a school levy! Even when the school system has a budget they can live with they still demand a school levy.

    Even if the education system got a blank check from the legislature, they would still demand more and still want a school levy.

    When is the education system going to start living within it's budget? The vast majority of Montanan's have to live within their household budget, but those who run our schools don't feel they have to.
  3. Limber
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    Limber - February 12, 2011 1:20 am
    Real smart! Cut $4 mil. plus lose $4 mil. in fed matching. Idiots!!! Doing this while you're sitting on a big surplus thanks to the governor's frugal measures in state government during the economic downturn! And what happens to those who drop out because their vo-ed program is no longer available, or the adult ed. class is cancelled. Do they wind up in the unemployment line, or in the courts? Cutting vital funds for education makes good sense if you can't see past the end of your nose. What are you thinking? Grandstanders! Publicity hounds!! Don't feed me this crap about some secret strategy you're developing behind closed doors. If you really have one, it should be a bipartisan effort. Since when are you the smart guys about money? A balanced budget is a balanced budget, no matter who does it. I want my legislators working together to solve problems, not using public education as your personal partisan battleground. If your cuts are along party lines, then go home and stay there! Send someone who wants to SOLVE problems, not create new ones. I have seen way too many talented young teachers move to Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, or other places. We alrteady short change our teachers on the pay end. If we keep going like this, some of our teachers will have to change careers. Become correctional and parole supervisors. Education is like oil changes for your car: Pay me now, or pay me later (BIGTIME) with unemployment and crime.
  4. PLG
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    PLG - February 11, 2011 11:22 am
    Cut the education funding so it can be used for more police and correction officers.
  5. farside
    Report Abuse
    farside - February 11, 2011 8:49 am
    That's just great! Here they come,can you spell "school levy?"
  6. enu_22
    Report Abuse
    enu_22 - February 11, 2011 7:56 am
    Shucks! Just vote yourselves another daily allowances hike.
  7. Jamesmt
    Report Abuse
    Jamesmt - February 11, 2011 7:24 am
    Why doesn't this article mention the $30 million in Federal stimulus the schools received late last year as well as the millions from the original 2009 stimulus?
  8. Reasonable
    Report Abuse
    Reasonable - February 11, 2011 7:01 am
    I can see some of the cuts, painful as they are, for gifted and talented, secondary vocational education, and adult vocational education. However, does anyone know what "special education maintenance of effort" means?

    I think we should all be very concerned that Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, who led the attempt to cut the funding for the K-12 programs, said he and some other Republicans are "working behind the scenes" and have not even consulted State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau.

    Does Jones have the expertise to provide the vision for educatioanal programs in Montana or should he be working "in the open" and perhaps with the Superintendent of Public Instruction?

  9. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 11, 2011 1:39 am
    I can hear the howling from the educators now - LEAVE OUR FUNDING ALONE AND CUT SOMEONE ELSES.

    Meanwhile everyone else is chanting the same thing.

    And where does that leave us, right where we are now with the state headed for the economic cliff along with the rest of the nation because no one wants their pet funding projects cut.

    I have long advocated on the federal budget level, if you're going to cut spending on our national security, then every agency and department and entitlement program must bear an EQUAL budget cut.

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