Steve Daines is Against Montana’s Public Schools, Will Be Cheering on Their Destruction Today

As we noted in the previous post, Montana’s tradition of public schools faces its greatest test in front of the Supreme Court today. It’s not a battle between parents and schools, nor a battle between public and private schools, both of which play an important role in our state.

It’s a battle between those who believe in Montana’s excellent system of public education and those who want to strip its funding and divert those resources to unaccredited, unaccountable and often discriminatory private schools.

And Senator Daines is not standing with your public schools. Whether it’s Bozeman High or Westby High, he’s standing against them.

Today, Senator Daines will be seated at the Supreme Court, throwing his support (in addition to the legal brief he has already submitted to those who want to undermine public education.

From an e-mail sent out by his Comms Director this evening:

Senator Daines will be attending oral arguments for Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue at the Supreme Court tomorrow morning. This is one of the most important equal protection and religious freedom cases in recent history. This is about whether discrimination should stand. Today, the MT constitution discriminates against parents and their children based simply on the school they choose. This case could change that for future generations.

We will be sending a video statement in the morning ahead of the oral arguments. Daines is also expected to meet with the Montana families who brought this case forward, Kendra Espinoza and Jeri Anderson of Flathead County on Thursday.

It’s interesting that Senator Daines is framing this as a question of discrimination given that so many Montana private, religious schools explicitly have policies that discriminate against students with disabilities.

It’s troubling that Daines is nakedly suggesting what public school proponents fear: that Montana Republicans will, if the Espinoza decision goes their way, pass laws that will shift funding from public schools to private schools and even home schools, undermining both accountability and the ability of public schools to provide a quality education for all students.

My argument is not with private schools. It’s not with religious schools. It’s with what is driving the Republican effort to undermine our schools. Senator Daines is absolutely right; the Espinoza case could have lasting ramifications for future generations by fatally damaging Montana’s constitutional guarantee of “equality of educational opportunity” for every child.

Daines and Republicans who want to defund public education won’t stop with Espinoza. They won’t stop until the schools in small Montana communities face economic challenges that will only drive more consolidation and reduction of services.

Perhaps that explains why Senator Daines won’t meet with constituents. He’d have to explain why he supports damaging the public schools that are the foundation of so many Montana towns.

Let’s fight like hell to preserve our system of education, one that protects the rights of students and parents to make the best choices for their families without undermining the guarantee of excellent educational opportunities for all.

Let’s let Senator Daines know where we stand, even if we won’t stand with us.

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.

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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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