A Crisis in Public Education – Flathead Beacon
In an unprecedented display of unity, every AA school district superintendent in Montana signed a letter expressing “no confidence” in the head of the Bureau of Public Education (OPI). While Elsie Arntzen often makes headlines (she has joined protests against mask warrants and has spoken out against critical race theory, which is not taught here), the recent allegations made against it are both serious and radical. Basically, our best educators are warning residents that the foundation of our school system, a point of pride in the state, is starting to crumble.
The superintendents, who include Micah Hill of Kalispell Public Schools, point out in the five-page letter that “their concerns are not related to politics.” Although they do mention their outrage that Arntzen attended a rally where another participant “joked” that the superintendents should be shot.
But beyond her charged rhetoric, there may be something far worse: it seems that Arntzen cares very little about the institution she was elected to lead, the consequences of which could be lasting for public education in Montana.
These eight superintendents, who are collectively responsible for the education of 64,000 students, or about 45% of the state’s public school enrollment, say the agency in Arntzen has experienced a turnover rate of nearly 90. %. In the private sector, that would be a reason to sound the alarm, but apparently not in OPI. Instead, positions have been freed and unfilled in an attempt to reduce “government fat.”
Here’s what it looks like, according to the commissioners:
There is a backlog of teacher’s license applications and not enough people to process them. This means that unlicensed educators who are waiting for their license may not be paid, which also means that a state already “facing a serious shortage of licensed educators” might find it even more difficult to recruit.
The Office of Public Instruction has not updated the state’s content standards, which means students can learn with an outdated curriculum.
There is no director of special education at OPI and “general communication regarding updates on OPI special education… has been lacking”.
Updates to the Montana educator code of ethics, which must be reviewed and revised every five years by a panel established by state law, have been delayed. Arntzen says the revisions are somehow tied to “critical race theory.” Superintendents say she is once again spreading “misinformation”.
Due to “many problems” including the “lack of stable staff” at OPI, school districts have been “unable to request or access the funds they need to do their jobs in a timely manner.”
And finally, superintendents highlighted their school districts’ need for annual credentialing reports, a “severely understaffed area of OPI” that needs to be addressed so that “educators, administrators, students and parents can have confidence in the capacity of our schools to teach our children. . “
Flathead County taxpayers have spent several bonds supporting education in recent years. We have built several new schools and provided teachers with the tools they need to raise the next generation of students. Hopefully it’s not for nothing.
If an aspiring teacher cannot obtain his license; if special education is not covered; if schools can no longer obtain their annual accreditation reports in a timely manner; there is a crisis in Montana. And, according to superintendents in the state’s largest districts, the cause is Arntzen, who “allows – in fact, encourages – OPI to bleed to death.”