School funding bill has lots of critics


HELENA (AP) - A last- minute school funding package hammered out by the Legislature on Saturday costs the state nothing, but gives schools more flexibility on how they spend some money, lawmakers said.

Most importantly, Republicans said, the complicated formula frees up about $4 million during an anticipated 2004 budget crunch and lets the state make up the money the following year.

Democrats assailed the bill as doing nothing to increase state support for schools, while forcing a shift to local taxpayers.

''This is smoke and mirrors,'' said Rep. Holly Raser, a Missoula Democrat and teacher...

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