September is here and that means backpacks, school lunches, homework, and high school sports. It also means investing in teachers, classroom technology, schools, and students. School funding is very complicated in Montana - as we discussed a bit yesterday on our blog – so we are going to dedicate the next four weeks of wonky word Wednesdays to school funding to help you understand it better. First up – ANB.
Before we begin, let me say that if you walk through the halls of the Capitol in Helena, you will hear people incorrectly call it “A and B,” so even knowing that is wrong makes you ahead of the curve. ANB stands for Average Number Belonging. People generally think of ANB as the “per-student funding” even though it isn’t quite right.
In October and February of each school year, school districts report the number of students enrolled in their schools to the Office of Public Instruction (OPI). From these counts, ANB is calculated. OPI has this great chart on its website.
The Legislature determines how the rate applied to each ANB - called the per-ANB entitlement – and it varies depending on the number of ANB.
For an elementary district, without junior high or middle school, has a per-ANB entitlement of $5,226, decreased at a rate of $0.20 per-ANB for each additional elementary ANB, up to 1,000 ANB. For each ANB over 1,000, the district per-ANB entitlement is $5,026.20. For an elementary district, with a junior high, the per-ANB entitlement is a little more complicated, but you get the idea.
For a high school district, or the high school program of a K-12 district, the per-ANB entitlement is $6,691, decreased at a rate of $.50 per-ANB for each additional high school ANB, up to 800 ANB. For each ANB over 800, the district per-ANB entitlement is $6,291.50.
Over the years, many schools experienced and continue to experience declining student populations. One fewer student in each grade in elementary will cost a school district more than $40,000. However, the school’s expenses are the same – it can’t cut a 2nd grade teacher because it only lost one 2nd grade student. To help schools adapt over time to declining enrollment the legislature gave schools the option to use a 3-year averaging. If it helps the budget, a school district is allowed to add the current year ANB to the ANB for each of the previous two school fiscal years, dividing the sum by 3, and rounding up to the next whole number.
Was ANB wonky enough for you? The per-ANB entitlement is probably the most talked about ways we fund schools, but it is just one of many. Schools have fixed costs, at risk students, and other needs that are accounted for with other methods of funding. So check back next week for more school funding words or post suggestions on our Facebook page.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.