So my governor is “disgusted” with me and many other people. We stepped in the way of a Republican-sponsored Pre-K bill last night that got tabled with Republican and Democratic support. Soon after the vote, Governor Steve Bullock put out a press release that he was “deeply disappointed” then doubled down and said he was “disgusted” with the move.
You are disgusted, my friend? Let me tell you why I am angry about this bill and the very, very important and necessary teachers’ union is against it. Let me tell you why I am disgusted at the state of Montana’s and America’s education.
I want to use my mother’s 40 plus years in public education as quick guide, just based on what I saw her endure. When we moved to Missoula in the mid-80s, she taught gifted education but within a decade that program was gone. When I was a kid, she woke up at 6 am and went to school to prepare and was often back at 6 or 7 pm due to after school meetings or needing to review the day’s work. During the summer, she maybe got a month off then spent the rest of it building up lesson plans or buying, from her own money, materials for her classroom. She did this for 40 plus years. So do all Montana teachers because this is best situation they have following assaults on our school funding and policies. Their union has kept them above water.
Recently, my mother noticed her students, and her, spent more time preparing for standardized tests sponsored by and given to schools by corporations outside of Montana. She was no longer able to teach as she had for decades: leading the students to think critically, learn about the world around them, and just have fun doing it. And the companies did not stop there, they wanted to bring more of their technologies and curriculum into the classrooms. Teachers, ostensibly, would be the robots that carried those designs. My mom retired last year.
The one thing she respected in all of that time was the power and unity of the teachers’ union. So I carry that with me to my core. Unions are under siege and the one cherry a lot of the people who want to undermine the power of collective strength desire to put on their cake filled with oil, coal, and automobiles is the teachers union.
So is this the “politics” of “special interests” as the governor called it out? You bet it is. It is the politics of ensuring the teachers remain united and are not forced to continue swallow like a bitter poison pill the incoming corporate and private interests into public schools. That is the crux of the issue with this bill: it gives private educators a larger funding allotment than public schools. Also Representative Eric Moore sold it as using Alabama as the model. Alabama, known for being … *checks Google* … 47 out of 50 for educational quality. That’s the policy we want to model? Wow, I guess private education does come with a price when 47 seems better than 22 (Montana’s ranking).
I was raised by a public school teacher. I went to public schools. I became a newspaper reporter then served my country then wrote for the president then came back home to help this state grow and flourish. Montana public schools raised me and I can still remember the lessons I received more than 25 years ago. They work and are necessary. Private schools would mean I or other kids get steered in the way the corporate sponsors and their allies want us to go. So yeah, when people want that to start programming our youngest, it raises some flags.
Further, the bill creates a new bureaucracy and director who has expansive powers. This czar, or viceroy, for early childhood education can make decisions based on whatever the governor wants. With Bullock this seems okay, but with say Gianforte or Fox or the next corporate stooge governor it gets scary. This is not good policy.
Do I believe in pre-K? Of course. Governor Bullock’s stance on creating the program since he first took office has been both commendable and enduring. But you cannot sacrifice one of your closest allies and patrons just because you want something passed.
Listen. To. The. Teachers. Union.
Later today, the Republicans on the floor of the house will likely attempt to “blast” this out of committee. They can do it simply with their 58 seat majority but they won’t. I would wager about 20-25 Republicans will vote against the motion so Democrats have to go on the record; to make the choice between the governor or the unions. It is an unfortunate situation for sure, but Democrats have to stand strong for the unions. These folks got you to where you are and they also are enduring unbelievable difficulty right now. More chips, more divisions, will only worsen our collective situation. It may seem like good politics and policy to you on the floor, but the teachers watching their students tap away at screen with games meant to be “educational” sponsored by the Acme Corporation through Americans for Progress do not see any of this as good policy or politics.
You want to see me and the teachers get disgusted? Keep this bill alive and pass it. You will not like those consequences though.