300 turn out for ‘Stand Up for Education’ meeting in Bozeman

Education in Montana is "slowly being starved to death," Bozeman School Superintendent
Mike Redburn told a pro-education crowd Thursday night.

By GAIL SCHONTZLER Chronicle Staff Writer

Redburn was one of several speakers at the "Stand Up for Education" meeting at Emily
Dickinson School, held to show support for pumping more state dollars into Montana’s public
schools and University System.

Pam Bredberg, president of the Bozeman teachers union, was pleased with the turnout, which
she estimated at 300 people. Many were teachers, school board members and parents.

Inadequate state funding is like high blood pressure, Redburn said. You can go on for years, he
said, but eventually will suffer multiple organ failure. In the schools, that means fewer people
applying for teacher openings, veteran teachers retiring early, class sizes increasing, and
education programs being eliminated or never starting.

The crowd applauded a 10-minute video, produced by the state teachers union, MEA-MFT,
that featured footage of the annual state teachers job fair in Missoula. Out-of-state recruiters
from San Jose and elsewhere held up signs offering starting pay packages worth up to $41,000
— twice what many Montana districts offer.

No one in the video mentioned the arguments cited by the Republican-dominated 2001
Legislature, that Montana can’t afford to spend more on education and that school enrollments
are dropping.

Redburn responded after the meeting, saying that Bozeman lost 60 elementary students last
year spread over six schools, which makes it impossible to close a classroom or lay off a
teacher. Over time, he said, you can close schools, as Bozeman did several years ago and
Butte and Missoula are doing now. Though enrollment is dropping, the costs of federal and
state mandates for testing and special education keep rising, he said.

Denise Hayman, Bozeman School Board member, said parent councils are having to raise
money for books and teaching materials.

Greg Weisenstein, education dean at Montana State University, said Montana needs to offer
student teachers more scholarships and forgive student loans to keep good teachers in the
state. Education major Jamie Jacobi said she’ll be leaving Montana for her student teaching.

Bozeman teacher Kim Quigley urged the crowd to talk to friends and legislative candidates
about their support for education.

"Make sure you know which candidates really are for kids," said Barbara Brown of the American
Association of University Women, "and which are just kidding."

Though several Democratic candidates attended, the only Republican in sight was Gary Petty,
running for the seat Sen. Don Hargrove is leaving. Petty said he believes economic
development is tied to education.

Gail Schontzler is at [email protected].

Posted in:

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.