Written by Betsy Scanlin
In Southcentral Montana, former mayor of Red Lodge and retired attorney Betsy Scanlin is taking on the winner of two Republican primary opponents, one of which is an incumbent, in Senate District 29, which stretches from Bearcreek near the Wyoming border to Greycliff outside of Big Timber. She does not have a primary opponent.
Both of my Republican primary opponents are proponents of ‘school choice’. But in rural areas like Senate District 29, which include 15 small towns, our public schools are the hearts of our communities. Not only do they bring folks together regularly, creating town pride, but they play an important role in teaching all students the basic ABC’s and life skills so students can have an equal, shared opportunity to succeed further in life. They gave my own two children a great start, and the friends they made there will be their lifelong support system.
Families are the important element outside of public schools to install individual religious and political beliefs. The founders of our country recognized this when they installed a constitutional separation of church and state: the state shouldn’t tell you what religion to believe in, and families and churches can.
Taking public tax money away from public schools through vouchers and tax credits for private schools, furthermore, hurts rural schools in particular, which are often in lower-income areas. They can’t do better with less. The 2017 legislature passed more of a burden for funding schools on to individual school districts, which will result in districts with higher-income populations supporting services that all districts, including those with lower-income populations, should be providing, creating a disparity in public school resources. This is basically unfair.
It’s important to note, furthermore, that passing the buck on to local school districts means that the burden to fund public schools falls even greater on our rural seniors and agricultural property owners who make up a significant portion of our local taxpayers. They are often the biggest supporters of the schools that they, their children and grandchildren attended, yet they are often least able to bear tax increases.
Fairer school funding is an important issue that the 2019 legislature must face. Rural voters need to choose candidates that support public schools.