Education Montana Politics

Shouldn’t a Candidate for Superintendent Believe in Public Education? Elsie Arntzen Doesn’t

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Yesterday brought the predictable news that Billings Republican Elsie Arntzen has decided to file for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Arntzen’s rationale for running is rather weak. She told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that she wants to run so that the employees at the Office of Public Instruction answer phone calls better:

“We need a new direction,” Arntzen said. “And it’s about service. I’ve served my family, my students, my constituents in the Legislature, and now it will be serving the school districts, putting a person at the end of the phone so that if they have a question there’s someone at the other end who will give them an answer.”

Unfortunately if Arntzen gets elected, those phone calls are likely to be answered in an offshore calling center because she, like most of her party, just don’t believe in public education and think that corporate control would be better for our students.

In the most recent legislative session, Arntzen voted for unconstitutional vouchers to send students to private and religious schools (HB 322) and for tax credit for those private schools (SB 410). In 2013, she endorsed those same policies, repeatedly voting for taxpayers to fund private instruction across the state. In 2011, she went as far as to vote for publicly-funded charter schools which would have had no oversight and opened the door to private charters entering the state and demanding public funds to operate. She’s even quoted on a pro-privatization web site calling for “different models” for privatization across the state.

She also believes, in true Gianforte fashion, that teachers shouldn’t be able to retire. In 2013, she voted against every bill to secure the future of the Teacher Retirement System, even going so far as to vote for a bill that would have taken away the defined benefit pension plan for teachers (SB 406), a bill that would have certainly harmed Montana district as they sought to hire the best employees.

Against the wishes of educators, she voted against school funding for 19 year old students (SB12). In another example of poor judgment, she supported the poorly-written and ill-conceived plan (SB107) to allow some schools to secede from their districts, in a bill so poorly written that even its sponsors couldn’t explain how the funding would work or how districts would be divided.

With all the things she’s against in public education, the one thing she does endorse is guns. Repeatedly, over the past two sessions, Arntzen has focused in favor of concealed weapons on college campuses and to take away the ability of the Board of Public Education to set gun policies on campuses.

Aside from defunding public schools, opposing retirement benefits, writing bad policy, and wanting to turn schools in shooting ranges, what does Arntzen bring to the table? A willingness to let ALEC pay for her to attend lavish retreats and tell her what bills to write and how to vote.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction is a job for someone who isn’t an ideologue, but an educator who understands the ramifications of policy decisions. She will no doubt speak of her experience as a classroom teacher, but she simply does not represent the views of Montana educators, who believe in our excellent public schools, fair compensation for meaningful work, and policies in the best interest of students, not fanatical opponents of public education or corporations who want to privatize schools. That she scored a 15% rating from the MEA-MFT legislative scorecard in 2013 demonstrates that she doesn’t have the interest of educator or students in mind.

 

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

6 Comments

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  • Until a charter school is willing to educate the full range of students (including all the disadvantaged and challenged of every type and form), they don’t deserve one cent of public money. And until they pay the same scale and benefits as the public schools do their unionized employees, no teacher should be willing to work there for the pittance they pay either. Jes’ sayin. People may be willing to serve at a religious school for other reasons…that is a choice of another color so to speak. But I really dislike all the things that charter schools get away with just by calling themselves something else and then getting public money to not do the job that public schools must do.

    This candidate sounds like a total loser to me – sorry!

  • Arntzen is the PAST; Juneau is the PRESENT; and Romano is the FUTURE of public education.

  • You are so wrong. Elsie Arntzen absolutely listen to all sides of an argument. I was the contact person for a bill that she sponsored. She listened to all sides and came up with a bill that was passed unanimously. She was a Republican senator but had a Democrat carry the bill in the house.

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