Elsie Arntzen Cheers For a $30 Million Cut for Montana’s Public Schools

Elsie Arntzen just doesn’t care about the students in Montana’s public schools. When the Trump administration rolled out its 2021 budget proposal, Mrs. Arntzen didn’t protest a budget that will cut billions from public schools, including $30 million from Montana, even though that budget would funnel much of the money from those cuts to wealthy Americans to pay for private schools.

Instead, she lent her name to public relations lauding it for the Trump Administration:

Among those who lauded the proposed budget is Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s superintendent of public instruction. The proposal, Arntzen said in an Education Department press release, is a victory for “local control.”

“Consolidated federal grants will allow school leaders and the Office of Public Instruction to spend more time serving students and less time on burdensome federal reporting,” she said.

The cuts would be particularly devastating for disadvantaged students, as Montana Federation of Public Employees Executive Director Erik Burke noted:

Based on our historic levels of federal funding under these programs, these cuts would likely equate to roughly a $30 million hit on Montana schools, including $3.6 million reduction in Impact aid targeted predominantly at our reservation schools.  That’s a big hit, especially when it is disproportionately hitting our poorest, most vulnerable school populations.

The Trump proposal freezes spending on IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funding, meaning that the federal government will continue to decrease its support for special education programs for students to even more unsustainable levels.

And the New York Times notes that rural schools, in particular, are targeted for cuts:

Among the programs that would be zeroed out to fund the grant are 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which funds after-school programs for low-income students; funding for programs in rural schools and magnet schools; and funding for homeless and migrant students.

The proposed Trump budget should make the person entrusted with overseeing Montana schools howl in protest because, if adopted, they would undermine our ability to educate our kids, particularly those who are most in need of support.

Instead, Arntzen, who has failed at every turn in her tenure to protect Montana schools and students, is acting as a cheerleader for the President.

You might wonder what would have Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction cheering a budget that will harm students in Montana public schools. The reason is almost certainly because the Trump proposal funnels billions of public dollars into the private schools supported by Betsy DeVos, ALEC, and Mrs. Arntzen:

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget seeks to spend billions in federal money — roughly equivalent to the totality of proposed cuts under the block grant — to help subsidize private school tuition.

That’s right. Elsie Arntzen is lending her support to a measure that will not only lead to greater funding crises for Montana schools who are already laying off teachers to make ends meet, but it will use the very money from those cuts to pay for private schools.

The budget proposal Arntzen is supporting doesn’t end there. It, according to Howard Gleckman, senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, would require us to “reimburse the entire cost of [a]child’s private school education” for the wealthiest among us, allow “taxpayers to direct federal funds to the private or religious schools they prefer,” and even let parents “claim a 100 percent tax credit to pay [themselves] to home school [their] child.”

Think about that: Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen is championing a budget proposal that says we don’t have enough money to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities, kids on reservations, and our rural schools are met, but that we do have enough money to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy.

Montana can do better than Elsie Arntzen, Betsy DeVos, and those who are hellbent on destroying public education; Montana must do better.

Montana needs a real champion for public education. Montana needs to elect Melissa Romano. Throw her some support today to support the schools that support us all.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Ms Arntzen spent years as a “student” in public schools. Then she spent further years in taxpayer subsidized UM and MSU. She subsequently compounded that profligacy by spending a number of years as one of the most scorned and derided “teachers” in the public school system. She proceeded to a brief (and contemptible) career in the state Legislature.

    All in all, she has had her trotters in the public trough for her entire life, yet has the incredible gall to vehemently advocate re-directing taxpayer dollars to private, for-profit, and cult-driven “academies.”

    In total, she has sucked up a staggering amount of taxpayer dollars, yet never returned to the state a dime’s worth of value. —- I want my money back!

  • I’d surely like more information about how that $30,000,000 of Montanans money is going to be funnelled to the Feds for their proposed changes to the nation’s public schools. My take on the article is that is what is going to occur.

  • You should probably make sure you spell her name correctly throughout the article. You spell it “Artnzen” on the line starting with “The budget proposal….”

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