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Education Montana Politics Steve Bullock

You Want to Know Who Is Disgusted???

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.

 

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About the author

Josh Manning

Josh Manning is a combat veteran who lives in Helena. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Time and Newsweek and he has appeared on MSNBC and CNN. He was a primary researcher to the recently published New York Times bestseller "The Plot to Destroy Democracy" by MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance. You can follow him on Twitter @joshuamanning23

5 Comments

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  • He can take his “disgust”, put it in his pocket, and sit on it.
    If he keeps pushing to allow our public schools to be privatized (like this bad pre-K Bill does) and keeps attacking the people who are anti-privatization, he won’t have a chance as a presidential candidate or to even be appointed to any post (U.S. Attorney General included) if a Dem wins the 2020 Presidency. Bullock should know he won’t get far in national politics by attacking his own Democratic supporters and the MFPE (who is affiliated with the AFT and NEA!). Guess who could keep him from getting ANY endorsements from ANY of the national teacher’s unions?…..the MFPE, Montana’s largest union! Maybe he should consider an apology to you Josh and all the rest of us….

  • As an educational consultant, I feel your passion. First, I’d like to bring your attention to this statement you wrote, ” 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.” What you mother experienced was Christian Reconstructions’ know-little, think-little education plan, created in 1995, in VA, by the BOE, under the guidance of the Gov., The intent was to create a vehicle to destroy public schools. It was so bad, 3 well-respected Supt. of schools in VA got together and decided they’d boycott the entire mess from a rote, list oriented, teach to the test (as awful as they were) curriculum to end-of-year- assessments. Their ultimate goal was to use the vouchers to continually increase religious based schools, but defined according to this new-age cult’s beliefs. Accordingly, this population does not believe in education, developing critical, analytical, or creative thinking skills, climate change, science, or providing funds for children with special needs. Thus, MT legislators, have either identified funds for special education or taken it out. You have to ask yourself, what this means. DeV.. has also reduced 72 Special education laws to basically titles, making their interpretations subjective or moot. She’s also determined that a child’s special education IEP, developed in a public school setting, will not be required if they attend a private school with a voucher. (IEPs have never been required for religious schools, because they do not receive federal dollars – separation between church and state.) Today we have the Sec. of Dept. of Ed. She’s a Dominionist, who has a goal of finishing off public schools. Besides deciding to no longer fund the Special Olympics and Autism programs, according to a March 13, 2019, Chronicle article, many other necessary programs have been eliminated and she’s proposed cutting 2020 federal funds for education by $12 billion, after cutting it in 2018 by $9 billion. In addition, the Secretary has imbedded a trick which traps parents and adults in communities across Montana and the US into believing something false. This trick is imbedded within each state’s ESSA, where she (or her staff) decided to agree or increased each state’s proposed percentage of increase in achieving proficiency, per sub-group of children. Those of us who are educators and administrators actually have a good idea about what it takes to increase proficiency for any population by 4% each and every year. Of course it starts with a good curriculum, but most importantly it takes very skillful, experienced teachers, small class sizes so that the teacher has time and opportunity to know the strengths, challenges and needs of each child she teaches, (being assigned too many children, particularly if the percentage is great representing children who experience a variety of challenges, makes teaching the curriculum, in both inductive and visual deductive ways, so that every child makes vital connections, nearly impossible.) It takes people and programs who support the children, along with access to quality teaching resources and programs. It takes on-doing teacher training, etc. All of this costs lots of money, and I haven’t even brought up the cost of administrators, buses, field trips, etc. The trap closes when parents, not realizing their public schools were intentionally destroyed, believe the propaganda that the public education has failed their child, and that people need choices (in spite of the fact that it was reported yesterday that charter schools (which do not require licensed teachers) are cratering all of the country. So, parents with vouchers in hand leave public education. Sadly, the more this is happening, the fewer funds, such as now, are available for those still attending public school – which, sadly, creates greater disparity, because those who have money will leave, and take vouchers, too. Those who are poor, can’t. It is also important to note here, poor communities do not have the tax base to make up the difference between what is essential to meet DeV..’s demands, and what extremists decide to provide for public school funds at the federal and state levels. Which, brings me to my point. I suspect Gov. Bullock can see the writing on the wall when it comes to the proposed language within the pre-school bill. Once you open that door to charter schools and vouchers, it will be like opening Education’s Pandora’s Box.

    • Thanks, Ms Broome – I do credit proponents of the pre-K bill with believing that it was a worthwhile trade-off to accept the obvious anti-public school portions in order to get something in place; figuring that they would be able to improve it in future sessions. I also believe that they were much too optimistic and we would have ended up several steps down the road to full-scale privatization and vouchering that would be impossible to overcome.

      On a national level, there may be a glimmer of hope, in that DeVos, in pursuing the agenda she shares with the so-called president, crossed a line that outraged enough people to make even the liar-in-chief flinch back. Naturally, he immediately blamed everything on her and threw her under the next passing bus. With any luck, she will not recover from that, and with even more luck, her billionaire Mercer relatives might shut off the funding faucet to him. We can only hope.

  • Gov Bullock should be used to it.

    He has never been able to work with the legislature and accomplish anything, has he?

    • Actually, he’s done remarkably well working with the decent human beings – from both parties – in the Legislature. It’s only the vicious PsOS on the extreme right that cause difficulties.

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