TO: Montana School Superintendents

FROM: Tim Tharp, Interim Deputy State Superintendent

DATE: January 27, 2017

RE: Update

Colleagues, this past month in Helena has been an unbelievable whirl-wind of activity between learning about the operations of this agency, the legislature being in town, and working to stay on top of contacts from stakeholders both in and out of state.

I want to share with you some information on a variety of topics, but first of all, a message from Superintendent Arntzen:
Hello everyone, 

On day one, I walked into the Office of Public Instruction and prepared the budget for the 2019 Biennium. Here are a few facts about the budget the team presented this week to the Joint Subcommittee.This is a responsible budget that reflects our mission of putting our Montana Students First.

A+ Proposed the largest K-12 Base Aid inflationary increase ever
$54 Million last Biennium to $55 Million this Biennium

A+ Restore the Natural Resources Development Payment and Excess Oil and Gas Payment 
$13.8 Million to K-12 Base Aid that shifts from State’s responsibility to local taxpayers

A+ Restore Data-for-Achievement Payment
$6.3 Million direct cut to school budgets and is part of the definition of Quality Education

A+ Proposed an Inflationary Increase to Special Education Funding
$1.9 million in the Biennium

This is a shout-out to our fiscal team members of Ken Bailey, Kara Sperle, Paul Taylor, and Jim Standeart. I know there were countless others who were supportive of the budget development. Please understand this was the first part of the budget process and we will be a conduit of more information throughout the session.

~ Elsie


Many of you have discussed in your regional MASS meetings about the consideration to reduce the number of people at OPI traveling around the state. I have received your concerns and passed them on to Superintendent Arntzen. She understands the benefit of the face-to-face relationships formed in the field and the benefit that this provides, but we have also had our own budget cut during our first week here and are working on how to make it to the end of June. But, we are going to remain committed to the regional MASS Representatives from OPI continuing their visits to you for the balance of this school year. For next year, a non-legislative year, we will be scaling this back to four face-to-face visits during the school year. Note that even if your OPI MASS Liaison doesn’t personally attend every monthly meeting, I encourage you to continue to utilize these people as liaisons to the field and consider ways to have them call in to your meetings and/or serve as a conduit for you to work directly with OPI staff.  

OPI Summary

The OPI Summary was not done this past month for a variety of reasons but I will get on top of this and get one out for folks next month, although it will be in a significantly scaled back format.


Our website has become large and unwieldy. It is a priority at the OPI to create one that is much more user-friendly and streamlined. Please find the survey on the front page and give us your feedback.

If you have ANY questions or concerns or anything comes up from the field that I can help you with, please feel free to reach out to me.  It was just over a month ago that I was in your seat and I promise not to ever forget about what it was like to serve as a local school superintendent. You can reach me at or 444-7325.