One of my closest friends is an educator, and I’ve had the opportunity to watch her do what she does best – teach high school students English. And though she is up against tough odds – strict and often misguided standards, students who may come to school hungry and ill-prepared, and the misplaced pressure that she can right all these wrongs – my friend devotes her life working to see that all her students are getting the most out of their time with her. As Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” This is what my friend does every day.
I feel privileged to have grown up in Montana and have been given the opportunity to learn from many amazing teachers. They were my mentors, my champions, and my support system. I grew up in an era where communities supported their public schools. People recognized that this investment was more than just supporting one’s own children; it was about supporting a future generation, creating a well-educated workforce, and building strong local communities. Today, our public schools and teachers continue this incredible work, and I am excited that my own daughter will soon have the opportunity to attend one of Montana’s quality public schools.
And yet, this session, our public schools were under threat of out-of-state interests pushing privatization of our education system. Legislators introduced a series of bills that would have spent millions in taxpayer dollars promoting private schools, while at the same time, attacking the great work of Montana educators to bolster the curriculum standards to ensure all students achieve their potential. Studies show these privatization efforts fail to provide educational opportunity for the students that most need the help, and instead divert funding away from our public school system. Most of these bills died, in part due to the great work of our partners such as MEA-MFT, the Montana Human Rights Network, and so many others. We are fortunate that enough state legislators said no to these measures and stood up for Montana’s public school system.
In Montana, our public schools consistently rank at the top nationally. Nearly 85% of Montana public high school students graduate on time, which is the 12th highest rate in the nation. Montana’s eighth-grade students rank sixth in the nation in reading and math, and first in the nation in science. Our public schools provide a stellar opportunity for Montana students, and we have teachers to thank for that.