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2020 OPI Race 2020 Tier B Races Education Elsie Arntzen Featured Montana Politics

I’m Not Saying Elsie Arntzen Isn’t Smart Enough to Be Superintendent, But…

Critics have perhaps unfairly maligned Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction for her inability to express herself while speaking. While their criticism has certainly been warranted, it has perhaps overshadowed the fact that Arntzen seems incapable of expressing herself in writing, too.

Consider this fundraising appeal she recently sent potential supporters. One would imagine that a person running to remain the leader of Montana’s schools would proofread a document sent under her name, but with Arntzen, it’s difficult to tell whether the elementary errors in this document are a matter of carelessness or inability.elsieproof

Perhaps the grammar and spelling errors were a deliberate choice, designed to distract potential supporters from the vagueness about the claims Arntzen makes in the letter about her achievements at OPI. Perhaps someone else who teaches in Montana could substantiate Arntzen’s claims that she has “expanded transformational learning programs,” but for most teachers I know, the past 34 months have seen none of the changes Arntzen promised when she was elected in 2016. Instead, we’ve seen the Superintendent of Public Instruction use her office to undermine public schools and promote private schools.

Consider the opening line of the second paragraph, where Arntzen touts her “for years” of service as the Superintendent. Spelling aside, I’m not sure what kind of math they are using in Mrs. Arntzen’s office, as she has not even served three years of her term yet—as she took over at OPI on January 2, 2017.

It’s probably unfair to mock Arntzen too harshly for three elementary errors in a brief letter asking for money. After all, she is only asking to continue to serve as the chief of Montana’s schools, right? Why would we expect a modicum of competence from someone entrusted with overseeing education for thousands of Montana children?

We deserve a candidate for OPI who understands the needs of Montana’s students and who will champion our public schools.

We deserve a candidate for OPI who can both speak coherently and write with a reasonable chance of being grammatically correct.

Elsie Arntzen is none of these things.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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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