Montana’s K-through-12 schools could face millions of dollars in cuts next month if state revenues don’t improve. The state Office of Public Instruction warned education groups and teachers’ unions about the possible hit to the agency’s budget during a meeting Thursday afternoon.
OPI is preparing for the deepest level of budget cuts that could be triggered in mid-August if state revenues fall short of expectations.
The cuts — up to $19 million over two years — are outlined in a bill passed by lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session. It attempts to safeguard the state from a large hole in the general budget by making gradual cuts to state spending over time.
State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen says the budget cuts will come just as the state begins to roll out what she is calling an ‘ambitious’ plan to raise academic achievement in order to comply with a new federal law.
Arntzen says the coming cuts could make work very challenging at schools moving forward.
“They have limited resources," says Arntzen. "So our job is to target what we are given from the federal government. And to efficiently deploy what legislature has given us for the biennium.”
The cuts to the state education system will impact schools for the next two years, and funds will not be restored even if state revenues improve. The cuts could reduce funding for research into student achievement data, special education, at-risk student payments, block grants, and secondary vocational education.