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Schools Superintendent Criticizes Requirements For Federal Pandemic Aid

Elsie Arntzen is the 2020 Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction.
Elsie Arntzen is the 2020 Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has submitted a plan to distribute $382 million to schools from federal pandemic aid. The state’s public schools superintendent is pushing back on some of the strings attached to the money.

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen criticizes the Biden administration and the federal education department for requiring schools to report their reopening plans to access money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Arntzen wrote in a press release that “We don’t need Washington dictating cumbersome terms of use.” She notes that the majority of schools were already reopened for in-person instruction and shouldn’t have to report their reopening plans to receive the federal aid.

Lance Melton, executive director of the Montana School Boards Association, says the federal rules were created with larger, more urban school districts in mind. He says the rules requiring schools to post their plans online pose a challenge for 75 districts in Montana that don’t have websites. 

“The federal act is designed with the idea that they have to help school districts reopen for the first time; next year, for example. And in our case, it’s already happened,” he says.

But, Melton says, the Montana School Boards Association and other education organizations have helped districts organize and post all of the documents they need to meet the federal government’s requirements for federal money. 

“We’ve got it covered.”

Arnzten says that if the federal government declines to change its requirements for the money, she’ll seek waivers from the rule for Montana school districts. 

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