That was quick. In the wake of an embarrasing profile of House Education chair Sarah Laszloffy, in which she falsely claimed that education makes up 60% of the state budget (not the 15% it actually does), one of the state’s corporate-funded faux media organizations ran a defense of her suggesting that those criticizing Laszloffy’s choice were nothing more than union thugs who hate Christianity.
Personally, other than some hard feelings about tense moments in the Billing Central gym as a fan from Laurel High School when I was young, I have absolutely no problem with the idea of private schools—as long as those schools are funded privately, as they should be, and as Montana’s Constitution demands. I recognize that not every student is best served by the local school in her community, and that’s why Montana has already developed alternatives, ranging from alternative high schools to a fully digital academy that provides all sorts of opportunities for students at an incredibly low cost to the state. And Montana’s larger cities have already shown they can sustain a small network of private schools for parents and students who choose that option.
And I’m quite certain that the MEA-MFT’s opposition is not rooted in opposition to the Christian faith. That’s an absurd canard, meant to distract from the fact that the MEA-MFT (and, I suspect, most Montanans) absolutely don’t want to see their public schools see reduced funding to pay for religious instruction, instruction that would necessarily have to cover any religious instruction, no matter how violent or dangerous just as it would Billings Central or the Petra Academy in Bozeman. Once religious instruction is priviledged with these kinds of tax credits, the Constitution certainly won’t permit discrimination—and I look forward to Ms. Laszloffy explaining to her constituents why tax dollars went to the School of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And I don’t look forward to a time when someone who can’t tell the difference between 60% and 15% can teach Math at Laszloffy High School in Laurel using tax dollars.
The real issue, of course, is that Laszloffy is eminently unqualified to serve as the chair of the House Education Committee—and the people who appointed her to that seat certainly must know that. Her age doesn’t disqualify her from leading the Committee, but her lack of experience and knowledge almost certainly do—and it’’s troubling to see the House Leadership appoint someone to this position to advance an agenda that will be detrimental to Montana schools.
What these so-called advocates of “school choice” refuse to acknowledge, other than basic math, is that Montana schools are doing an excellent job, despite Republican efforts to reduce funding and prevent access to early-child education, which is critical. Schemes like privatization and tax transfers won’t improve educational outcomes at all, but offer nothing more than a chance for some adults to get rich and score political points at the expense of children.