Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen accepted a $47.1 million check on Monday from Governor Greg Gianforte and other members of the State Land Board to help fund public education in Montana.

“A big shout out to our ranchers and our farmers,” said Superintendent Arntzen. “The majority of this increase is for our school trust lands totaling $47.7 million. This is an increase from last year. And it is because of our agricultural base. It's our grazing leases as well as those great products that are sold at market that come up are State Trust lands.”

Arntzen explained how state schools are funded.

“We wait for this every year,” she said. “It's important. It's 5% of every tax dollar that goes into public education. And, yes, there are a lot of federal dollars and everything else that's there, but we're in Montana, and we want to just give a great shout out to Montanans who produce wonderful things that sell in our global markets across the state.”

Arntzen said there is a formula for financing public education in Montana.

“It goes in through our state funding formula,” she said. “I send out about a little under $900 million annually from the general fund. These are our tax dollars that come in through income and property taxes. I send this out to schools and it's a formula based on students. In other words, how many students have crossed that threshold into the buildings, that's the majority of those dollars that flow.”

She said salaries and benefits for public school teachers also help to come out of this fund.

“This $47.7 million goes first into the bucket of education headed out to our schools to help serve our students, and 90% of all of those dollars pay for teachers,” she said. “So, this support for public education is coming off our public school trust lands to support our great teachers wherever they may be in Montana.”

The $47.7 million equates to about $327 per student in our public schools. Agriculture lease revenues make up $16.8 million from wheat, barley, and hay; grazing revenues make up $13.7 million, and timber revenues make up $23.3 million.

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