Does it matter?

Our Point of View
by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver
Fall 2015

 Melissa Romano
Does it matter if the next superintendent of public instruction...

• Is an accomplished, award-winning classroom teacher?

• Believes in and advocates for public education?

• Thinks teachers should be licensed and endorsed?

• Opposes tuition tax credits, pay vouchers, and charter schools — all intended to privatize our public schools?

• Believes teacher tenure — due process and just cause — must be maintained as it has been for over 100 years?

• Affirms our public schools must be gun free and safe?

• Believes early childhood education is the next best step toward quality education for all Montana kids?

• Believes that after a life-time career, teachers have more than earned a life-long supporting pension?

• Proactively follows in the footsteps of distinguished predecessors Nancy Keenan, Linda McCulloch, and Denise Juneau?

It matters to us. There are two announced candidates for Montana superintendent of public instruction: Democrat Melissa Romano and Republican Elsie Arntzen. No other credible candidates are likely to file.

Romano, an award-winning classroom teacher, believes as we believe in things that matter. She will competently follow in the footsteps of her last three predecessors. MEA-MFT COPE has endorsed her candidacy. 

As for Arntzen, she has a legislative record unbecoming of anyone who teaches or has taught in our public schools. 

In the 2015 legislative session, Senator Elsie Arntzen voted NOT to fund Governor Steve Bullock’s Early Edge proposal. She opposed state funding of 19-year-olds who maintain high school enrollment and opposed raising the mandatory school enrollment age to 18.

Worse, she voted for SB 410, the first public school income tax credit privatization bill to pass any legislature and slither into law without the governor’s signature.

In addition, Arntzen voted for HB 322 to provide local and state revenue vouchers for a wide range of kids to enroll in private and sectarian schools. The governor vetoed HB 322. And she supported HB 596 to create a parallel universe of publicly funded but privately operated charter schools across Montana. The bill died in committee.

In 2015 and previous sessions, Arntzen has voted to weaponize k-12 public schools and college campuses. She has voted to bastardize the meaning of teacher tenure and end defined benefit pensions in the Teachers’ and Public Employees’ Retirement Systems. She has voted to require the election of the Montana board of public education and end election-day registration — a legislative referendum the people rejected in the 2014 general election.

It gets no better. Arntzen has voted to authorize anyone to teach, supported so-called “right-to-work,” and opposed state employee pay plans. In 2015 she voted to close the Montana Developmental Center…a vote consistent with her 2011 vote to defund the Montana State Veterans Home.

Back in 2005, in a special legislative session convened expressly to meet Montana’s constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education, Arntzen voted NO on the absolutely necessary k-12 school funding bill that featured first-time-ever funding of the quality educator payment, Indian Education for All, Indian achievement, and at-risk students.

So many bad votes, hard to pick the worst one, but what can be said about her 2009 vote asserting Montana’s right to secede from the union?

Elsie Arntzen’s record matters. If ever to serve as our superintendent of public instruction, she will promote outcomes similar to the legislative votes she has cast.

Elsie Arntzen is no Melissa Romano.