Rick Hill Talks Education Plan: Shutting Schools and Insulting Teachers

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill was up in the Ravalli again, where he made therickhill mistake of discussing his ideas about education with the The Bitterroot Star.

Hill led off with something that will probably surprise supporters in small towns. He wants to shut down their school districts, arguing that Montana’s education system suffers from “too many school districts.” I look forward to reading the list of schools Hill plans to shutter and districts he plans to close, but thus far, they haven’t made his web site.

Mr. Hill also made it clear that he doesn’t know how effective Montana teachers are, telling the press that Montana is “second to last in quality of teachers.”

Presumably, Hill is referring to a Thomas Fordham Foundation’s report, which measured elements entirely unrelated to actual teaching quality, but focused instead on right-wing causes like reducing the power of unions, which are certainly not the measure of effective teaching.

Had Mr. Hill continued to read, he would have noted that the same survey ranked Montana 7th in the country in educational output (actual learning) despite the fact that Montana ranks 46th in teacher pay. We’re also 5th in the nation when it comes to ACT scores.

While Mr. Hill might believe that a collection of low-paid public employees producing excellent results means they are unqualified, he’s absolutely wrong—and owes an apology to Montana teachers.

Not done demonstrating his ignorance, Hill called for “higher academic standards and a common set of core requirements in its 420 school districts.” That would have been an excellent argument three years ago, but Montana has already adopted the rigorous national Common Core Standards under the leadership of Denise Juneau.

Finally, Mr. Hill reached for the stars, telling the crowd:

“That is the dream of having more and better jobs available, a government that is affordable, and an education that will prepare us for the 23rd century.”

Well said, Captain Kirk. Well said.

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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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  • Here’s what Hill said:

    “Two things jump out at you when considering our educational system,” said Hill. “We are dead last in knowing what our kids are doing, how they are performing.” He attributed that to too many school districts with a population that is growing more transient.

    You take that and suggest that Hill intends to shutter schools. What nonsenses. You can do better than that. Consolidating school districts may be appropriate in certain areas where economies of scale and streamlined educational services may be achieved. However it is beyond a stretch (equal to a lie) to suggest that schools would be closed from that statement.

    • When I look for someone to assess the honesty of a statement, I certainly turn to you. Given the absolute lack of clarity in Hill’s remarks, I supposed I could be wrong.

      One would imagine an independent thinker like you would be more concerned about a candidate for governor who so clearly lacks a basic understanding of Montana schools.

    • This district consolidation talk is certainly not new and it seems to make sense at first brush. When it does make sense it has happened – consider Dutton – Brady and Chester – Joplin- Iverness. Schools are currently allowed to pool across districts if it makes sense for economy of scale. When you consider the loss of local control and safety factors in busing students it quickly stops making sense. If we are in fact dead last in knowing how our children are performing (which I doubt) it is because we are looking at the wrong metric.

  • What a disgusting cheesey little man he is. In other words, a typical Teatard. I see that he has all the latest Teatard talking points. But ya know, anyone that goes outta their way to bash teachers is simply a moronic nazi. Hell, we love our teachers here in Montana. But we DON’T love perveted little corporate pimps so much. This guy is pathetic, always has been, always will be. Hard to believe he can even show his face after the mermaid scandal and all.

  • On a related note the Bismark needs 50 teachers STAT. Starting salaries in the thirties.

    Seems like 200 working oil/gas wells equals high paying teacher jobs.

    MT has 20 working wells.

    • Damn, geography is so frustrating. We should probably change the state lines, because no one has made a very good case for believing there’s any other reason why more drilling is happening in ND.

    • No respectful Montanan should ever wish for Montana to be more like North Dakota. As the locals get squeezed out of western NoDak, crime skyrockets, and the hunting and fishing goes to shit, we in Montana are sitting far prettier.

      I’ll take an eastern Montana filthy with Sage Grouse and Mule Deer, wild places to be wild in, open roads, local cultures not overrun with roughneck out-of-staters who are here today gone tomorrow, and communities you’d raise your own child.

      An oil boom coming to any part of Montana reduces the value of that part of Montana to me. An oil boom coming to my neighborhood would sound absolutely terrible.

      Whether the oil runs out in 15 or 50 years, North Dakota will be as poverty ridden and filthy as West Texas when the dust settles and everyone leaves an infrastructure that no longer seems as important as it once did.

  • Nice try. The article opens with this:
    IT IS TEMPTING TO ASSUME that the differences stem entirely from the states’ public policies, but part of the disparity comes from factors beyond anyone’s control. One of these is geology: The oil shale layer is generally thicker in North Dakota, so as producers rush to begin drilling before leases expire, they drill first in the most productive areas. Another is land ownership: Montana has a higher percentage of federal land, which is more difficult to drill.

    After that, it lists five “policy reasons.” Three are the same totally non-specific claims we hear from Montana politicians.

    A fourth is workers’ compensation. Guess who created our Workers Compensation mess? Rick Hill. Rick Hill. Seriously.

    A fifth reason is the “business tax,” but the non-specific article doesn’t even provide a single data point about how much it would cost oil producers.

    So why is North Dakota drilling more? Geography, Rick Hill’s workers’ comp mess, and the fact that Republicans keep saying Montana has an unfriendly business climate, all evidence to the contrary.

    • Knew it wouldn’t last. I’m sympathetic to teachers, my mother -in- law was one. I have a sis that teaches along with other relatives. My sis did get two job offers one outside Billings (small school district) the other in Gillette. $10,000 dollar difference.

      One thing MT does have is more coal than WY, and yet WY mines more. So again you’re perplexed, does business friendly states like our neighbors to the south and east have a symbiotic relationship with well paying school districts?

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