By signing Senate Bill 175 this week, Gov. Steve Bullock assured that public schools across Montana will get a funding boost over the next two years.
The $51 million biennial appropriation in the new law will benefit all schools big and small from west to east with modest increases in per-student and lump-sum payments.
The new law recognizes that spikes in enrollment increase costs for districts, and that the same lump sum payment for all districts shortchanges students in bigger districts.
Last year, when 300 new students enrolled, Billings got no money to educate them. Next year, if 300 new students enroll, Billings will get money for 260 of them.
Instead of one “basic entitlement” payment for the entire district, the new law will provide an additional payment for districts with more than 250 elementary students or more than 800 high school students. For each 80 students over 800, the high school district will receive an additional 5 percent of the basic entitlement. Similarly, districts will receive an additional 5 percent payment for every 25 elementary students over 250. Along with the House Bill 2 inflationary adjustment of less than 1 percent that all schools will receive, SB175 will increase funding next year for the Billings high school district by about $800,000 and for the Billings elementary district by about $1 million.