Montana education expert questions democracy, teacher pay and 'fairness' – Daily Montanan

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Due to the tenuous U.S. government situation, are Montana children learning the tenets of democracy, and are homeschooled students meeting educational standards?

“We are kind of in danger in this country,” said Lorraine Bond, who identified herself as an educator and social worker in Missoula. “And if the kids don’t understand what we’re talking about, we’ll never be at the same table.”

Bonds asked questions Monday at the City Club Missoula Forum focused on the state of public education in Montana. A panel of education experts addressed these and other questions about indigenous representation in education, teacher salaries in the state, and the controversy over the term “equity.”

McCall Flynn, executive director of the Montana Public Education Commission, said the commission is currently revising its accreditation standards. Many school districts already require citizenship and government through social studies, but are seeking graduation requirements.

In terms of homeschooling options, Lance Melton says that in Montana about 10% of the student population has chosen a non-public school option at any given time, with around 3,000 students typically attending home or private school. increase.

Melton, executive director of the Association of Montana School Boards, said: “We saw a spike initially during COVID, but I think we’re actually proud of the fact that enrollments have skyrocketed in the last school year.

He said the goal is to provide people with the opportunity to participate in public education “to the extent they want” and to ensure high quality in doing so.

On several occasions, panelists emphasized the power of Montana’s local school board. R-Hamilton Rep. David Bedi said community members can have solid discussions with the trustees, including civic and financial literacy requirements.

And he said the school board can act quickly.

“That’s the place for action, folks.

The event at DoubleTree was attended by approximately 100 people, including participants from the Southeast Asian Youth Leadership Initiative, sponsored by the US Department of State through the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana.

Pranab Krishna Prasad from Singapore asked how indigenous peoples are represented in the Montana Board of Education, and the panelists shared examples. The City Club has a mission to inform citizens about issues that matter to their communities, and Monday’s forum was called “Getting Educate: Perspectives on Public Education in Montana.”

“We work on it every day,” says Melton.

He pointed to his own association’s Indian Education Board Caucus, which he said was lively and vibrant. He said it was formed because Article 10 of the Montana Constitution states that Montanaans are committed to education to preserve the cultural integrity of Native Americans.

According to Flynn, there are no Native American members on the public school board today, but there have been in the past. She also said the Montana Advisory Board on Indian Education advises the Board and the Public Education Department.

At the school board, Bedey said D-Box Elder Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy is working to protect the Indian language. Bedi said he expects the 2023 Congress to take up legislation to strengthen it, which he said is necessary for Montana to meet its constitutional mandate.

From the audience, Monica Tranell, a Democrat running for U.S. House of Representatives in Montana’s New West District, said she heard teachers’ salaries were among the lowest in the country. and $44,000 at Bozeman.

By comparison, Bozeman Real Estate Group This month, the average cost of a single-family home in Bozeman was $871,500.

“How can (the teacher) make it work with the cost of living and housing?” Tranell said, countering Republican Ryan Zinke and libertarian Jon Lamb.

Melton said giving all teachers a $10,000 bump would cost $111 million a year, but he said several different rankings are part of the picture. rice field. He said Montana ranks his 48th in the nation when it comes to starting teacher salaries.

However, he said Montana has moved from 48th in the nation in average teacher salaries to 28th or 29th from 2006 to 2018. In doing so, the public school board raised salaries faster than anywhere else in the country, except Iowa, during that period, he said. Nebraska.

He wants to make more money for his teachers, including health insurance, but the job is complex and involves collective bargaining and district priorities.Rep. Llew Jones of R-Conrad Legislation from the US backed up the previous session and may be a good model for the future, he said.

“This is something we are working hard with others,” says Melton.

Alka Kaur Sandu from Malaysia said she had read that the words ‘fairness’ and ‘ethics’ were at stake in a public school order in Montana. She wanted to know how the state planned to protect students, including those with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and non-European American descent.

Flynn thanked her for asking the difficult questions and said she could not speak on behalf of the board members. We have revised many rules over the course of the last year.

“I can’t necessarily explain why words like ‘fairness’ have been removed and perhaps replaced with ‘equal opportunity’ in our constitution, but we are committed to setting these minimums.” I can say that I still fully understand the role of .It’s the norm,” Flynn said.