We will update the page as more information becomes available. In the meantime, please use the listed
resources and guidelines.
Visit MFPE's COVID-19 Resource Page
The safety of our members, their families, and the Montana public is our top priority. MFPE is monitoring the situation closely and has launched a resource page for members and their families. mfpe.org/covid
We will update the page as more information becomes available. In the meantime, please use the listed
resources and guidelines.
Visit MFPE's COVID-19 Resource Page
by Eric Feaver
MFPE is postponing its annual conference scheduled to meet here in Helena April 3-4 .
Feaver said, "The COVID19 situation is fluid and moving fast to say the least. We await expected information and directions from the governor’s office and office public instruction. We will reschedule our annual conference if at all possible, but we will not wait indefinitely to do so."
Meanwhile, all local affiliates must register their delegates no later than this coming Friday, March 20. No local affiliate will be able to register a new delegate after that. If there is a need to name an alternate delegate or if and when we conduct a virtual version or two of our annual conference, MFPE will deal with that on a case by case basis.
BY TAL AXELROD
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union, announced Saturday night it is endorsing Joe Biden for president, a major boost for the former vice president as he battles with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for labor support in the Democratic race. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the 3-million member strong NEA, cited Biden’s support for public education: his plans to boost teacher pay and make schooling more available across the country.
“The National Education Association proudly recommends Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States. Biden is the tireless advocate for public education and is the partner that students and educators need now in the White House,” Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.
“He understands that as a nation we have a moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code. As president, he is committed to attracting and retaining the best educators by paying them as the professionals that they are as well as increasing funding for support staff and paraprofessionals.”
Biden later responded to the endorsement in the statement from his campaign obtained by The Hill.
“I am honored to have the support of the National Education Association — not only America’s biggest union, but a preeminent and powerful voice for public school educators and students across the country” Biden said.
“I know what it’s like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a teacher — I’ve been doing it almost my whole life. That’s why I will continue to stand with educators every day on the campaign trail and in the White House. Together, we are going to beat Trump, replace Betsy Devos, and appoint a Secretary of Education that parents, students, and educators deserve: someone who has worked in a public school classroom,” he continued.
Biden has made concerted efforts to cast himself as a staunch ally of public education, often citing his wife’s career as a teacher, releasing sweeping plans to boost school resources, triple funds for Title I schools, make higher education accessible, and attending three of NEA’s presidential forums.
The endorsement came after NEA voted on which candidate to back. The union is also the largest organization to endorse a candidate in the primary thus far.
The NEA’s support is the latest boost to Biden, who is riding a wave of momentum from a week-long winning streak. The former vice president has cemented his status as the primary field’s front-runner over Sanders after wins in 10 of 14 Super Tuesday states as well as several states this week, including a key win in Michigan.
Biden is also expected to perform well Tuesday when Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio hold their primaries.
Biden and Sanders are fiercely competing for union support as they each seek to burnish their bona fides among white working class voters that voted for President Trump in 2016.
PLEASE NOTE: The following meeting on Mar. 24 has been canceled!
This invitation is extended to all union members to participate in an opportunity of supporting and learning more about the importance of the Great Falls Public School District's levy.
Not only will KEY present information about the levy and respond to people's questions, but this will provide a time and place where people can provide recommendations to KEY about how to pass this levy in the school district.
As KEY vice-chair Jeff Gray said, "Let's work to come together because Strong Schools and Strong Unions build Strong Communities."
When: Mar. 24, 2020, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Great Falls Labor Temple
Address: 1108 7th St. S.
(Next to the Job Service building)
Great Falls Tribune
It was standing room only as community members gathered to to attend a rally in support of school funding for the upcoming school levy election at a Spring Hill Suites conference room on Wednesday afternoon.
Administrators, school board members, students and parents took turns to share testimony about why they believe Great Falls Public Schools deserves the community's support in the levy election that is slated for May 5.
"About five hours from now and 63 days we will be announcing the celebration of the new era of Great Falls Public Schools," said GFPS School Board Chairman Jan Cahill to kick off the event.
Over the last decade, the school district has experienced nearly $10 million in budget cuts which has resulted in the loss of over 100 educators. According to the speakers, the impact of those losses can be felt in district classrooms and beyond.
"There is an absolute link to the business climate in our community, a strong business climate in our community, and a strong school system in our community," said Brion Torgerson, a local parent and business owner. "Strong schools equals strong business and you cannot reverse that order."
Voters will be tasked to make the final decision on the $1.3 million elementary levy, which is estimated to have a $12.40 tax impact annually on a $100,000 home.
Funding for public schools is a complex equation, but it boils down to 80 percent of the district's funds are supported by the state, while the remaining 20 percent falls on local participation. Right now, local participation is supporting 17.3 percent of the elementary district's funding, the $1.3 million levy amount would bring fund the maximum budget allowed for the district.
"What I'm here to say to you today is they deserve not 80 percent, not 70 percent, not 90 percent. They deserve 100 percent of our support," said GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore. "So this levy is about getting to that elementary levy cap and supporting our students and our teachers in this school district to 100 percent, and when we've gotten there, then we can say we've done our part.So let's get it done."
In 2016, voters handily approved the high school and elementary district bonds totaling nearly $100 million for facility improvements. The difference between a bond and a levy is that money for a bond is allocated for school buildings such as new facilities or modernizing older ones. On the other hand, levy funds support programs, teachers and other operational parts of a school.
Or more simply put, bonds are for buildings, levies are for learning.
Shane Etzwiler, president of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, told community members at the rally that the chamber voted in full support of the operational levy last week. "Strong schools go right hand in hand with strong businesses in our community," said Etzwiler. The levy support event was hosted by Kids' Education Yes!, a community led, non-partisan political action group that has been in Great Falls since the mid 1990s. The group is running a campaign in support of the levy by educating community members about how the levy may begin to alleviate the challenges the district is facing after a decade of budget shortfalls.
"I've spent a lot of time with many of you in this room talking about the cuts, and the heartache and the loss and what are we going to do," said Jamie Marshall, the chair of KEY! "Today, I am really excited to stand in front of this phenomenal group and say we have the next 63 days to make this look different."
More: GFPS school board unanimously agrees to send levy to voters in May
Feb. 28, 2020
Democratic governor candidate Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney on Friday announced a familiar face for his running mate — state Rep. Casey Schreiner, who was also running for governor until earlier this month.
Schreiner is a four-time state representative and was minority leader in the state House in 2019. During his bid for governor, he highlighted what he said was meeting all the Democratic priorities he laid out at the start of that session, from a bill that continued Medicaid expansion in Montana to breaking an infrastructure logjam.
At an announcement from the Capitol rotunda, Schreiner said he understood the struggles of many Montana families, having navigated the loss of his teaching job and the premature birth of one of his sons.
"Montana families deserve somebody in Helena who's willing to fight for them, that understands first hand the challenges," Schreiner said.
" … These are the things people need to know about when they're governing, not from a poll or survey but because they live it and breathe it every day."
Cooney said that Schreiner has shown from his time in office that he can champion Democratic priorities.
"I've spent my career in public service fighting for Montanans, earning their support," Cooney said. "Casey is also a fellow fighter who has earned your support. With Casey at my side, I know that together we're ready to lead, we're ready to fight for Montana."
When Schreiner left the race as a governor candidate, that left Whitney Williams, a Missoula business owner who comes from a well-known Montana political family, as Cooney’s only other opponent in the primary. Democratic former state Rep. Reilly Neill, of Livingston, left the race in January. Williams has yet to announce her choice for lieutenant governor.
On the Republican side, Attorney General Tim Fox has picked former state Rep. Jon Knokey of Bozeman, and state Sen. Al Olszewski selected state Sen. Kenneth Bogner of Miles City. Republican Greg Gianforte has not yet announced his running mate.
In their announcement, Cooney and Schreiner both emphasized their focus on keeping the governor's office in Democratic hands and specifically named Gianforte as their expected opponent.
Cooney said in addition to his life experience, Schreiner brings a younger perspective to the ticket and can help the campaign in Cascade County, an area where whoever wins the general election must perform well. The two men also emphasized their experience working with a Republican-majority state Legislature, which is expected again in 2021.
Before running for governor, Schreiner was a work-based learning director at the state Department of Labor and Industry. He also worked as a science teacher.
The deadline to file for office is March 9.
Article by Sara Vowell
Scrutinizing the avuncular sphinx Chief Justice John Roberts throughout the impeachment trial of President Trump, I kept wondering whether he will preserve or ransack the legacy of the framers we revere — framers like the Republican Betty Babcock and the Democrat Dorothy Eck. It’s the question on all Americans’ minds: Do Mr. Roberts and his eight co-workers fully appreciate the public-spirited grandeur of the winter of 1971-72, when 100 Montanans, including housewives, ministers, a veterinarian and a beekeeper, gathered at the state capital, Helena, for the constitutional convention, affectionately nicknamed the “Con Con”?
The question haunts the current Supreme Court case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. This newspaper has called the dispute over whether state tax credits can apply to donations for scholarships to private religious schools “a proxy battle over school choice.” However, the back story is so clumsily specific to Montana’s small population and immense geography that the case doesn’t entirely translate to states where people outnumber cows.
The novelist Ivan Doig wrote that in the scruffy Montana of yore, “When you met up with someone apt to give you trouble from his knuckles, the automatic evaluation was ‘too much Butte in him.’” When, as the grateful graduate of a Montana public school, I was determining whether I had a duty to stick up for the Con Con framers regarding the Espinoza case, I spotted a sequence in the web address of an article about it in The Atlantic that read “montana-bigoted-laws.” At that moment this Bozeman girl had too much Butte in her. Dorothy Eck wrote no “bigoted” anti-Christian laws — she was a blatant Methodist!
Before it ended up at the Supreme Court, the Espinoza ruckus started with a $150 tax credit. Montanans will make an appellate-level stink about chump change because that’s the only available change. The tiny tax base is basically eight coal miners, a couple of ski lift operators, that family in Belgrade making organic goat cheese and Huey Lewis.
Kendra Espinoza counted on scholarships to help pay for her daughters’ tuition at Stillwater Christian, a private school in Kalispell. No wonder. At up to $8,620 per year, ninth grade is more than $1,000 higher than undergraduate tuition at the University of Montana. What we called a “band room” at Bozeman High, Stillwater considers a “conservatory.”
School choice partisans pounced when Ms. Espinoza and other private-school parents sued to overturn the State Supreme Court’s ruling that the tax credit for scholarship donations violated the “no-aid” clause for sectarian schools in the Montana Constitution. They argued that it was time to erase “antiquated” anti-Catholic laws against public funding for private religious education. The subtle former state senator Matthew Monforton denounced the law as “Jim Crow for Christians.”
It is worth pointing out that the eighth word of the ’72 Constitution is “God.” In the first draft of the preamble, some wistful Jeffersonians tried to thank the “Spirit of the Creator” for “the quiet beauty of our state.” They were shot down in the Bill of Rights Committee because “not mentioning ‘God’ specifically would be unacceptable” and so they “voted unanimously to retain Him in the Preamble.” The framers included a priest from Great Falls, Mitt Romney’s cousin Miles, the self-proclaimed “first Roman Catholic ever elected to anything in Yellowstone County,” and enough Presbyterians to warrant their own photo op.
While the ’72 Constitution’s no-aid clause looks similar to its predecessor in the 1889 original, the update was motivated by fortifying public schools, not shunning people of faith. Rethinking education was, along with open government and the right to individual dignity, part of the Con Con’s crusade to take a stand that no one dared dream of at statehood: that Montana would be a state in a republic and not an exceedingly wide company town.
“We were known as the state that wore the copper collar, controlled by the Anaconda Company,” Ms. Eck once said. A swashbuckler for the League of Women Voters, she referred to the copper company lording over the “richest hill on earth” and thus the newspapers and politicians. “There were stories of how their lobbyists would sit in the balcony at the legislature and do thumbs up and thumbs down of how people should vote.”
The Con Con delegates, who arranged themselves not by party but alphabetically, were so preoccupied with the public interest that they agreed public funds could be spent only on public agencies. During deliberations on the no-aid clause, the pastor of Helena’s Plymouth Congregational led the charge of “preserving our public school system,” preaching, “that’s what this issue is all about. I don’t think we ought to dilute that in any way.” (Diluting that is the aim of Espinoza.)
Article X, Section 1, of the ’72 Constitution proclaims that it is the duty of the state to “develop the full educational potential of each person.” That is an expensive ideal in a desolate wasteland. Public schools are supposed to be a volume business, but tell that to the Great Plains. The state of Montana has about 60,000 fewer inhabitants than the number of students enrolled in New York City’s public school system. I have volunteered in that epic system, which is to say I have had to excuse myself from a struggling student to go cry in a bathroom, so I sympathize with an urban kid who might eye a parochial school as her best chance.
That school choice logic doesn’t apply to Montana, where the poorest schools often have the smallest class sizes. The Montana Free Press reported that out in Prairie County, “Terry High School’s sophomore class has just five students this school year.” Starting in first grade, my friend Genevieve would ride her horse Croppy to the Malmborg School near Bozeman Pass; one year she and her brother Pete were half the student body.
When USA Today asked Ms. Espinoza if she had any qualms about what her case could mean for public schools, she insisted, “They have plenty of money.”
How I wish that were true. Last year, the public school district in Kalispell announced $1.7 million in budget cuts, Great Falls recently lost almost a hundred teachers, and Billings just announced about $4 million in cuts that mean canceling fifth grade orchestra and band.
A Supreme Court decision on Espinoza is expected in June. If the justices rule against Montana’s voters, tax credits for private school scholarship donations could surge. Revenue that might revive the Billings fifth grade band program could underwrite the fifth grade band at a pricey Kalispell private school.
Kalispell is the seat of Flathead County, which between 2000 and 2015 added more than 15,000 jobs just as rural Choteau County was losing more than 300. Overturning the no-aid clause will shovel more money into the cities (where most of the private schools are) and kick Choteau while it’s down, thereby thwarting the framers’ plan to spare needy districts from taxing “their residents three or four times as much as rich districts to provide less than half as much money per student.”
The public schools the framers conjured ask the taxpayers to splurge on fairness, not privilege, to pull together, not away. That beekeeper, those clergymen and moms chartered a state in a republic where a first grader on horseback is supposed to be as big and important as the mountains. As the Supreme Court justices ponder whether to upend all that over what appears to be a $150 trifle, I’ll pass along this lesson of Montana winters: A collapsed roof starts with a single snowflake.
Accolades are piling up for Baker High School teacher Linda Rost.
Rost, a decorated science teacher, was named Montana teacher of the year in September. Now she's a finalist for the national title.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, which oversees the most widely recognized National Teacher of the Year award, named Rost as one of four finalists Thursday.
The group cited her passion for rural education, advanced science projects for students, and continuing training for teachers — all of which featured a hands-on approach.
"I think that students don't really understand what science is until they do science," Rost said.
She emphasized that a rural setting like Baker shouldn't hold students back from taking on ambitious projects or pursuing specialized studies.
"I don't want to be that teacher that's like 'oh, they're doing really cool things but we can't do that here because of this and this and this,'" she said. "A lot of what we do, we have to be resourceful and creative."
Rost pointed to a microbiology project a student is working on that requires storage for cells at -80 degrees Celsius. A lab-style freezer would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, but a cold-storage tank for bull semen did the trick.
"I think that actually improves the program and improves the experience," she said. "(Students) have to be the experts."
Projects like that are included in The Bringing Research into the Classroom project, linking students in Baker with Montana Tech researchers, which Rost spearheads for the school.
She's also waded into education policy; she was part of a statewide committee that rewrote science teaching standards that were approved in 2016, and created a group in Baker to focus on K-12 collaboration in science, math and Indian Education For All.
More than 20 of her students have competed at national or international science competitions, including a first-placer at the 2012 National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, according to a press release about the finalists.
Rost worked in scientific labs researching soil, fire ecology, and invasive species before becoming a teacher. But she found the work isolating, and after moving to Montana, pursued a teaching job in Ekalaka.
At first, her qualification didn't fit, but she was hired on an emergency license — something that an increasing number of schools are turning to that's viewed as a band-aid solution. Rost earned her teaching certification through Northern Plains' transition to teaching program and is now pursuing a doctorate from Texas Tech.
She said that she hopes to use recognition as a national finalist to draw attention to rural teaching shortages and potential solutions, particularly grow-your-own programs that train people with roots in rural communities.
"Those are the ones who are going to stay there," Rost said. "We need to recognize that this is really effective. ... They need to be funded and prioritized."
Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen applauded Rost in a press release.
“Montana is blessed to have some of the highest quality educators in the nation, and Mrs. Rost is proof of that,” Arntzen said in the release.
Montana's most recent finalist for National Teacher of the Year was Bozeman High School's Paul Andersen in 2011. Richard Nelson from Kalispell earned the honor in 1956 and remains the only Montana teacher to win the national award, according to the Office of Public Instruction.
The 2020 award winner is expected to be named this spring.
Do you want your tax dollars to fund religious education? You shouldn’t.
By Rachel Laser
The Washington Post
Jan. 21, 2020
Rachel Laser is president and chief executive of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Imagine a country where your hard-earned tax dollars must fund private religious schools that require students to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or that expel students for being gay. Imagine that your state is forced to spend resources to help fund construction of a local house of worship of a faith you do not share, just because the state is also contributing to building a community center.
These scenarios are antithetical to the principles of religious freedom on which our nation was founded. And yet, this is the path we may be headed down as the U.S. Supreme Court gears up to hear oral arguments Wednesday in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.
The case arises out of a challenge to a Montana private-school voucher program. Because the Montana Constitution — like three-quarters of the states’ constitutions — specifically prohibits state dollars from funding religious education, the state limited its voucher program to secular schools. But some parents argued that if Montana funds private education at all, it must fund religious education. The Montana Supreme Court struck down the entire voucher program, resulting in all private schools being treated the same way: None of them get taxpayer dollars.
Now, however, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to decide whether Montana’s earlier decision to fund some secular schools means that it must also fund religious schools — schools that teach religion, compel students to engage in religious activities and enforce religious codes of conduct. This case is not about what a state may do, but about what it must do. To hold that the U.S. Constitution requires taxpayers to fund religious education in this fashion would upset long-standing principles of religious freedom and separation of religion and government.
No taxpayer should be forced to fund religious education. This bedrock principle alone should convince you — and the court — to leave Montana’s constitution undisturbed. But if that’s not enough, consider the fact that a ruling in favor of the voucher program would also compel taxpayers to fund discrimination, religious and otherwise.
Private religious schools don’t adhere to the same nondiscrimination laws that public schools do. As a result, we have seen them turn students away because their families don’t share the school’s religious beliefs. They have barred admission because a student or parent is LGBTQ or a student has a disability. They have expelled students who engage in sex outside marriage. And some have fired teachers for being pregnant and unmarried, for undergoing in vitro fertilization or for advocating for the right to terminate a pregnancy. While not all private religious schools conduct themselves in this way, too many do, and taxpayers should not have to underwrite such discrimination.
Consider also that whatever the Supreme Court decides in the school-voucher arena may well reverberate in other contexts, opening the door to countless new avenues of taxpayer funding of both religion and discrimination. For example, would the government then be forced to fund Sunday school classes at a house of worship if it is funding a museum’s youth education program? If taxpayer dollars are paying for secular social service programs such as substance-abuse counseling or job-training programs, would they now have to pay for similar programs that require Jewish participants to practice Christianity?
Some claim that not funding private religious education when private secular education is funded amounts to religious discrimination. They have it backward. Prohibiting government funding of religion protects religious freedom. Religious institutions that accept government money open themselves up to government interference, risk internal divisions and jeopardize their ability to be self-supporting in the future. A diverse array of religions have been able to thrive in America because of — not despite — the separation of religion and government.
Those challenging the Montana Constitution are not seeking a level playing field. Instead, they are asking the state to fund their religious schools and continue to extend to them exemptions from laws that apply to public and even secular private schools. That is not equal treatment — it’s religious privilege.
The Montana Learning Center is accepting applications for summer employment.
The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake is hiring for staff to support our '2020 Summer Learning Camps for Kids!'
We offer competitive pay, room and board at the MLC during camps, a beautiful place to work and a great staff to work with. Montana teachers who work at camp can also earn up to 80 OPI Renewal Units.
For more information on the MLC, see:
Census – The following was sent by Eric Feaver:
The Montana complete census count campaign is looking for 14,000 applicants to fill 4,500 temporary, part-time, but good paying census enumerator positions. To date fewer than 6,000 folks have applied.
So why not apply? How can it hurt? Our state needs your help. We must count everyone across our state. No exceptions.
Apply here - 2020census.gov/jobs
Curious about how much you might be paid? Go here -https://2020census.gov/en/jobs/pay-and-locations.html?utm_campaign=20191203msc20s1ccrcrrs&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery&state=Montana&county=Yellowstone%20County
Spread the word. If not you, then maybe someone you know.