SD2, Juneau focus legislative messages on school funding inequalities

2012-12-10T14:04:00Z 2012-12-11T07:26:04Z SD2, Juneau focus legislative messages on school funding inequalitiesBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Nothing like the looming legislative session to focus the mind. 

School District 2 is preparing for the 2013 Montana Legislative session and has begun lobbying for more equitable funding. 

"What we will be focusing on is entitlement," said SD2 Superintendent Terry Bouck. 

Bouck presented the district's case to a group of area legislators Monday morning during a special community meeting sponsored by Montana State University Billings. 

The state's basic entitlement is a small block of funding that each school district in the state receives each school year. Whether a district comprises one school or 29 schools — like SD2 — each receives the same lump sum, about $350,000. 

SD2 officials support legislation that would change the model so that each school in the state, rather than each district, receives the basic entitlement lump sum of $350,000.

Denise Juneau, state superintendent of schools, calls it the brick model. Rather than give one brick to each school district, the state should give a brick to each school. 

"Billings should get (29) bricks," she said. 

Juneau backs similar legislation. As head of the state Office of Public Instruction, Juneau has leaned on state Sen. Robyn Driscoll to introduce the bill in January. 

Juneau met with SD2 trustees, staffers and community members during a noon gathering in downtown Billings. 

"School funding is already complex enough," she told the group. This change to basic entitlements would make the system just a little simpler, she said.

In his meeting with legislators Monday, Bouck stressed several times that his fight for basic entitlement funding isn't an issue of urban schools vs. rural schools.

The state has a mandate to adequately fund its rural schools, many of which need specialized funding, he said. 

However, the state also has a mandate to adequately fund urban schools. Right now, he said, that's not happening. 

By delivering basic entitlements on a per-school basis, rural school districts won't lose any of their current funding and districts with multiple schools would receive a little more, he said. 

The change would send an additional $1.5 million in desperately needed money to SD2, Bouck said. 

SD2 elementary classrooms are overcrowded, and the district lacks the funds to hire more teachers and build more classrooms. 

Much of the overcrowding has come from a recent growth spurt. SD2 has grown by roughly 300 students a year for the past couple of years. 

Under state law, school districts that experience sudden, rapid growth are eligible for special emergency funding. However, student growth must  exceed 6 percent in the school year for that funding to kick in.

SD2 and Juneau's office hope to amend that provision as well. To hit the 6 percent mark, SD2 would have to grow by 960 students. 

Instead, SD2 officials are lobbying for legislators to look at the 6 percent rule and find ways to make it more equitible for large school districts.

OPI backs legislation that would amend the requirement to be 6 percent growth or an increase of 45 students in a school year.

"I think we're getting somewhere," said Teresa Stroebe, SD2 board chairwoman. 

Stroebe and Juneau have seen bipartisan support for some kind of change to the basic entitlement rule, and both are optimistic that an agreement can be worked out. 

"The key that's working for us is that everyone is talking," Stroebe said.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. End Daze
    Report Abuse
    End Daze - December 10, 2012 5:28 pm
    No more school funding until public educators want to develop natural resources. Denise Juneau, state superintendent of schools, was re-elected to office after opposing the sale of lease to coal company. That says to me the schools are not interested in supporting the kinds of things necessary to generate the revenue they want. The schools have school trust lands which were set aside to fund schools, somehow we have wound up with a system in which not only don't they do that, but we have educators who do not know from where the revenue comes. We need to change the system so that all school funding from the state must come from revenues from school trust lands -- I suspect attitudes might change then. Until then, I urge everyone to oppose funneling more education dollars from the general fund. We should at least get an administrator who isn't biting the hand that feeds the school system.

Comment policy

We provide this forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the day's news. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and abuse are not. You must be logged into a personal account on Facebook to comment (FAQ). Readers are responsible for their comments and abuse of this privilege will not be tolerated. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate our Terms of Service. Comments reflect the opinions of the author - not those of The Billings Gazette or its parent company.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

More from the Gazette

Achievers

7 hours ago(0)
Jack Hanna calls in to Poly Drive class

Jack Hanna calls in to Poly Drive class

May 20, 2015 6:30 pm Photos

Photos

(0)
Billings elementary students learn Arbor Day lessons

Billings elementary students learn Arbor Day lessons

May 08, 2015 5:01 pm Photos

Photos

(0)

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses