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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Arntzen Alleges False Test Data Reporting By Juneau

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen
Elsie Arntzen
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen

Montana’s newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction is accusing her predecessor of misrepresenting student test results to federal officials.

Superintendent Elsie Arntzen called a press conference this afternoon to announce that Montana was not in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education requirements on reporting student proficiency data.

States must meet certain testing requirements to receive federal education funding.

Arntzen says the previous Superintendent, Denise Juneau, sent federal officials data knowing it wasn’t in compliance.

“This was a reckless decision that was at least two years in the making," Arntzen said. "It was also an abuse of state and federal dollars that could potentially put funding for our Montana schools at risk.”

A spokesperson for Superintendent Arntzen says it’s not certain how much, or if any, federal funding could be lost, and it would be up to the discretion of the U.S. Department of Education.

Arntzen, a Republican, took over the role of Superintendent from Democrat Denise Juneau, three weeks ago.

Arntzen says an internal OPI whistleblower told her office that Juneau’s administration used ACT testing data to report Montana students were proficient to the federal government.

That’s normally not allowed, but Montana had a waiver to use ACT results to prove proficiency in 2015. Montana did not renew that waiver in 2016, and Arntzen says that means previous Superintendent Denise Juneau put the state out of compliance.

Denise Juneau says her office was running up on a federal deadline that came as her administration was leaving office. She says they submitted ACT data because they had to submit something.

“And we could not leave those fields blank," Juneau said. "So we reported so the money could come for the education system.”

Arntzen says her office will work with the U.S. Department of Education to continue looking into this issue and will provided updates as they learn more.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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