News68th Session


MFPE holds State Capitol rally, says Legislature hasn't shown respect for teachers

MFPE Capitol Rally
Posted at 7:23 PM, Apr 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-14 21:23:05-04

HELENA — On Friday, the union that represents Montana’s public school teachers held a rally at the State Capitol, protesting legislative actions that they say haven’t shown respect for teachers.

“There have been a slew of bills this legislative session that are meant to drag a national political message into our classrooms, with the sole purpose of driving a political wedge between students and their teachers and between families and their schools,” said Amanda Curtis, president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees. “Instead of focusing on the issues that are actually facing local public schools, this legislature is hell-bent on just bashing teachers.”

MFPE is holding its annual conference in Helena this weekend, with about 300 delegates in attendance. Many of those members were on hand for the rally.

Speakers at the event criticized bills that would expand charter schools in Montana, saying they would effectively divert funding from public education and potentially encourage for-profit corporations to enter the education market. Attendees held signs reading “Montana Kids: Not for Sale.”

They also opposed bills that sought to put restrictions on things like obscene content and drag shows in schools, arguing that they were based on misconceptions and false messaging about what’s happening there.

“We go to work every day to do our best for students,” said Rep. Eric Matthews, D-Bozeman, a middle school teacher and MFPE’s vice president. “Devaluing that and demeaning it and blatantly being misleading about what we do is harmful to all of our students in Montana.”

Those in attendance also said lawmakers haven’t done enough to improve school funding.

“Teachers get the short end of the deal again,” said Sen. Shannon O’Brien, D-Missoula.

With 16 days left in the session, Curtis urged her members to contact lawmakers to make their opinions known.

“I honestly believe that most of the folks in this building will listen to the constituents in their districts,” she said. “They do love their local public schools. They do love their local teachers, their kids’ and grandkids’ teachers. The majority of this legislature does have the opportunity and could possibly save public education from being privatized.”

The Senate Education Committee will hold hearings Monday afternoon on House Bills 549 and 562, two competing bills that would establish new models for charter schools in Montana.