Montana Republicans: The Education Con

If you ever wondered why Montana Democrats have made strides in the state in the past few elections, you don’t need to look any farther than people like Scott Sales and Roy Brown, who’ve helped put the ‘con’ in conservative. Their latest con job? Rhetoric about education that shows their fundamental hypocrisy.

While Governor Schweitzer has been suggesting, quite reasonably, this week that the school and university system need to temper their funding expectations, Mr. Sales is back to his old tricks, demonizing the schools:

Sales was also critical of the university system officials for proposing budget initiatives worth $74.7 million and of K-12 officials for requesting more.
“They’re groups of people that continually want more and more,” Sales said. “You couldn’t write a check big enough to satisfy higher education.”

But it gets better. Roy Brown, presumably in the same meeting, criticized Governor Schweitzer for not making enough money available for schools:

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Roy Brown also criticized the governor.
Brown says more money would be available for education spending if more coal were developed in the state. He says Schweitzer has set up roadblocks.

So, the principled conservative position on education is basically this: schools are rapacious, wasteful institutions that a new Republican governor would give more money to. Maybe Scott and Roy should get their anti-schools rhetoric together before they issue their press statements.

In an unrelated note, would it kill Charles Johnson to provide some context for this story? Was it a press conference? One press release? Two of them?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.


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  • First of all, perhaps you should look up the word “con” or specify that you’re use of that word is purely rhetorical and not otherwise linked to the content of the story.

    Second of all, there’s really nothing inaccurate in either quote above. First, it’s true that educators and researchers always want more and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that you would have trouble getting to a point where they were satisfied. Second it’s absolutely true that increased coal production would increase tax revenues which would provide more money for all programs.

  • Con defined: To swindle (a victim) by first winning his or her confidence; dupe

    So, in my mind, it’s a con for Roy Brown to suggest that he would use coal revenue to fund the schools at the same time Scott Sales is rhetorically demonizing the schools. Given the Republican unwillingness to adequately fund the schools in the 90s, the public would be foolish to believe them.

    The Republicans want to have it both ways here. Schools are bad (appeal to the wingnut 6,000 year old Earth base) and we’ll fund schools more (appeal to the reasonable people who know that education improves lives and economies.)

    The past clearly shows which side governs for the Montana GOP.

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