Make no mistake about it: those who call for “school choice” plan to, as soon as the Supreme Court and Legislature empower them to do so, siphon tax dollars from Montana’s excellent public schools and transfer them to private schools.
And you don’t have to take my word for it: private school advocates are telling us they plan to take those resources.
In a story about how Great Falls schools are responding to the Espinoza case we covered earlier in the week, reporter Skylar Rispens got a quote from Superintendent of Montana Catholic Schools Dr. Tim Uhl.
The gist? Private schools are going to come for public dollars:
“It is getting more expensive every year to run our schools,” wrote Uhl in an email. “If our Catholic schools could access state funding in areas such as transportation and textbooks and raise money for scholarships, we’d be on better footing.”
Transportation and textbooks are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. If the Supreme Court rules, as Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte want it to, that state constitutions cannot prohibit spending public dollars on religious instruction, we’re one Republican governor away from local communities having less money to pay teachers, buy supplies, and transport kids.
And it doesn’t help that Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen still doesn’t understand that her job is to look out for Montana’s public schools. Arntzen, who previously refused to testify against a bill that would have ended compulsory education in Montana and who attended an ALEC-sponsored conference touting shifting funds from public to private schools, had this to say on Twitter today:
Montana students and families, as you gather across our state to celebrate #SchoolChoiceWeek, I want to thank you for your commitment to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to receive the individualized education they deserve-> https://t.co/tApp16kX3G #MTEdChat
— Elsie Arntzen (@SuptArntzen) January 27, 2020
While the euphemism today might be “school choice,” the goal has always been the same: to undermine public education so that corporate interests can profit and religious schools can proselytize on the public’s dime.
Montana should absolutely continue its effective blend of public, private, and home schooling, but don’t be fooled about what will happen if Montana bucks fifty years of constitutional protections for our public schools: our students, our teachers, our schools, and our communities will all suffer and the egalitarian promise of our public school system will be shattered.