I stand for education and my vote is always to protect the children. I support policies that promote excellence in education. I have been, and remain an active participant in the education of my own children and grandchildren.
Over my last 10 sessions, I have both carried and supported legislation that benefits our rural school systems.
Montana School Business Officials, MEA-MFT, Montana Rural Education Association, Montana Quality Education Coalition, Montana School Boards Association and School Administrators of Montana collaborated score of 90%.
Thomas Jefferson, in 1786, working to create a system of public education, stated our mission: “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness... The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance."
To remain competitive, Montana’s youth must be provided with a world class competitive educational opportunity, be it private or public. The litmus of every program evaluated here must be toward student achievement.
I have taken the lead role in this section over the last few sessions, demanding that programs consistently be focused upon enhanced student achievement. In 2013 a decade worth of work came together in SB 175 as the base for the most significant K-12 education reform package Montana had undertaken in a decade. In 2017, with SB 260 and SB307, I provided a pathway for long term investment in school infrastructure that will ensure adequate educational facilities for future generations. In 2019, I provided money that would follow the student to opportunities outside the traditional bricks and mortar, In 2021 with HB 143 I enhanced beginning teacher pay, and in 2023 with HB 749 I enhanced digital offering for Montana students, with HB 588 I enhanced teacher recruiting, and with HB 587 I enhanced student equity between regions while buying down permanently local property taxes. I have also stood firm that our female athletes are harmed when biological boys, post puberty, are allowed to compete. And, I am opposed to permanent chemical or mechanical gender modification to children prior to becoming an adult. The risk of permanent sterility and lifelong harm is simply too high.
Consider the following components:
1 Gave direct control of funding to local Trustees, returning authority taken by the state.
2 Removed the requirements that seat time be the base for accreditation, making mastery of knowledge content the key tool for student accreditation and advancement. This now allows a much more individualistic flexible learning environment in our local schools.
3 Linked State lands directly to school infrastructure and tax reduction. The old system had lease increases such as the 80 million Otter Creek disappearing into other government coffers.
4 Froze the property tax by linking natural resource growth to education funding. This will provide incentives for schools to support the development of Montana's treasures.
5 Allowed for school support dollars to flow to areas of high impact need such as in Eastern Montana. Irrespective of location, our students must be provided learning opportunity.
6 Put technology dollars in the hand of local control, not the state. The local Trustees have their finger on the pulse of local need.
7 Enhanced data privacy rules for education in the state of Montana
8 Brought additional equity to the funding formula for all sized schools.
9 Provided a predictable foundation for investment in school infrastructure.
10. Created a pathway for money to follow the student to career leaning opportunities outside traditional bricks and mortar, for example certified nursing assistants, plumbers, electricians, welders, and mechanics.
While there is still much to be done, K-12 public education, the base for the American Dream, is alive and well across Montana.
In addition, Senator Taylor Brown and I worked together to bring performance metrics to higher education. The University system is now focused on improvements in critical areas such as "time to degree", "average student debt load", and