We must never abandon education to the private sector

by MFPE President Eric Feaver

The more I think about HB 755 or its anticipated progeny, the worrier I get.

The governor has scored political points playing to folks’ concerns that Montana does not do enough to educate our children at age 4. Many of these same folks could care a whit whether we do it in public schools or private charter schools. They just want it done.

So why are we opposed?

For whatever reasons, the governor has twice fallen victim to a perverse notion that a little bit of privatization of our public schools through income tax credits via 3d party private scholarship organizations as in SB 410 – a bill he could have but chose not to veto back in 2015 – or creation of a parallel structure of private pre-k charter schools (HB 755) is OK. By so doing he has compelled the leadership of our public school community (MT-PEC) to resist. We resist not for a lack of love for and commitment to the education of our children at any age or specifically at age 4, but our love for and commitment to Montana’s constitutional promise “to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person. Equality of educational opportunity is guaranteed to each person of the state.” (Article 10.1)

We the public school educators of Montana believe the only way we can live up to our constitutional promise is through public education wherein we educate all our children.

We the public school educators of Montana believe once we invite or permit the private sector to do what we do with public/taxpayer money, we abandon the promise.

We the public school educators of Montana believe if the governor and legislature divert a portion of our public school revenue stream to private charter schools for 4 year olds and establish an extraneous, constitutionally challenging new bureaucracy under the authority of the governor to administer pre-k education in Montana, we abandon the promise.

We the public school educators of Montana worry if we surrender to something like HB 755, what comes next? What might the next governor and/or the next legislature do to expand the privatization of our public schools beyond a slice of pre-k?

We the people own our public schools. We must never abandon them to the private sector that carries with it none of the constitutional promise and accountability we the public school educators of Montana carry and carry well.

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