In a letter to Governor-elect Brian Schweitzer, Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today to assist the state's education budget efforts.
"I intend to do everything I can to help put Montana in the best financial position for our children's education," Rehberg explained. "I was able to secure a commitment from the Department of Education to serve in an advisory capacity to the state of Montana, particularly as it relates to the impacts on Montana's education budget as a result of federal policies."
In his letter to Governor-elect Schweitzer today, Rehberg pledged to help regarding education, "including the extent to which federal funding will impact Montana's education budget."
December 30, 2004
Schweitzer/Bohlinger Transition Office
P.O. Box 200850
Helena, MT 59620
Dear Governor-Elect Schweitzer:
In light of recent court rulings, education funding in Montana will understandably be a top priority for the 2005 legislative session. Therefore, I was pleased to learn that newly established committees in both chambers of the Montana Legislature would explore public education issues, including the costs of providing such education. As you begin sorting out this important matter, including the extent to which federal funding will impact Montana's education budget, my staff and I stand ready to help in any way we can.
As you know, the face of public education has changed substantially in recent years, and education in Montana is no exception. Fortunately, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) brought both new goals and resources into our schools. An emphasis on standards, transparency, and flexibility have been coupled with an infusion of Title I funding. Since 2001, total federal contributions to Montana education have increased by nearly 40% and federal funding for the education of Montana's disadvantaged children has increased by nearly 50%. As Chairman of the House Rural Education Taskforce, I will continue to work with Sen. Baucus and Sen. Burns to support a variety of other resources rendered by NCLB, such as the Rural Education Achievement Program, for which a majority of Montana schools qualify.
I also remain sensitive to the impact of federal laws on local budgets and continue to support the full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Although the federal contribution remains a far cry from the 40% per pupil expenditure requirement, I am heartened to see the federal share is rising. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the federal contribution to special education in Montana has increased by over 64% since 2001, and I will continue working for increases until the federal government is providing its promised share of the IDEA bill.
I look forward to working with you on behalf of Montana's most valued resource - our children. If there is any way I can be of assistance as you address Montana's educational needs, please contact me in my Billings office at (406) 256-1019 or in my Washington D.C. office at (202) 225-3211. I've also contacted the U.S. Department of Education about the education funding issues facing our state as they relate to policies of the federal government. Deputy Assistant Secretary Ken Meyer of the Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs has agreed to assist you in addressing these issues in any way he can. Mr. Meyer can be reached at (202) 401-0404.