Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen is offering the governor and the legislature the option of splitting the $125 million in guaranteed school payments into four parts, to loosen up cash flow for the state.

Deputy State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Timothy Tharp said the idea is not to reduce the amount of school funding in order to avoid tax shifting to the people of Montana.

“One of the ideas Superintendent Arntzen has is looking at the payments that go out to schools,” said Tharp. “There’s a huge payment that goes out this month, which has been used as an impetus for the necessity of this special session. Maybe we can change that payment schedule. It wouldn’t change the total dollars to schools, it would just even it out. So, instead of two tremendous spikes going out to schools in November and in May, we want to spread it out over four months, in November, January, March and May, which would free up about $70 million in immediate cash flow dollars.”

Tharp was asked why no other superintendent had thought of this strategy before.

“The different things they’ve done to handle this in the past were short-term fixes,” he said. “We’d rather use better government and make a plan that will work for perpetuity, something that’s better than what we have right now. Instead of having this ongoing situation, let’s just fix the problem so we don’t have to deal with this again.”

Tharp said the situation must be dealt with legislatively. The legislators they have shared the idea with were in favor of the plan, and will submit it to the lawmakers during the special session.


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