The new Education Interim Committee held its first meeting on June 13, 2017, to organize and discuss its interim work. The committee decided to focus its efforts on conducting the study of funding of educational programs to serve students with special needs requested in House Joint Resolution No. 1 (HJ 1), examining several K-12 education policy topics, and strengthening its collaboration with the Board of Regents in addressing higher education policy and budget issues. The committee elected Sen. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte, to chair the committee and Rep. Fred Anderson, R-Great Falls, to serve as vice chair.
The committee spent the morning reviewing its statutory duties and the HJ 1 study and also examining some of the changes to the K-12 funding formula made by the 2017 Legislature, as well as the revenue triggers and reductions to various education-related appropriations contained in Senate Bill No. 261.
After lunch the committee heard from representatives from the Office of Public Instruction, the Board of Public Education, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, and the Governor’s Office. During public comment a number of educators, parents, and students spoke about the needs of students with dyslexia, emphasizing the need for improved teacher preparation leading to early identification and effective intervention.
In conducting the HJ 1 study, the committee’s work plan proposes to examine the needs and costs of educational programs serving students with special needs, including children with disabilities, at-risk students, students with limited English proficiency, children who qualify for accommodations under a 504 plan, and gifted and talented children. The study resolution was drafted by request of the 2015-2016 School Funding Interim Commission and directs the committee to look at the way other states provide funding for programs serving students with special needs and to determine whether Montana’s current funding mechanisms need improvement.
The committee discussed a number of topics that it plans to examine over the course of the interim, including chronic absenteeism and truancy, implementation of Montana’s school accountability plan under ESSA (the federal Every Student Succeeds Act that replaces No Child Left Behind), and teacher preparation programs. The committee plans to devote time to looking at K-12 career and technical education programs, perhaps even hitting the road to visit program sites.
Members of the committee expressed a strong desire to collaborate more effectively with the Board of Regents over the interim, especially in examining the governance structure of the Montana University System and reviewing the various state programs providing student financial aid.
The committee will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, in Room 137 of the Montana Capitol. For more information visit the committee’s website or contact Pad McCracken, committee staff, at email@example.com or 406-444-3595.