By Ron VandenBoom
Dennis Rehberg, Republican candidate for Congress, told more than 150 of his fellow Republicans attending the Hill County Lincoln Day Dinner that if elected he will propose a Teachers Protection Act to protect educators.
Rehberg is running against Democratic candidate Nancy Keenan for the seat vacated by Republican Rick Hill, who stepped down because of health reasons.
Rehberg described the act as legislation that would protect teachers, principals, and school board members from merit-less lawsuits that result from their efforts to maintain discipline.
"Teachers simply must be given the ability to remove violent or disruptive children from the classroom," he said.
Rehberg announced the proposal in part because he said he was frustrated with the turn education has taken in recent years.
"Today our children are faced with assault, drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, and even rape," Rehberg said. "High schools are debating metal detectors and uniform policemen are walking the halls of Billings West and Billings Senior. In some cases, four of them at any given time."
Rehberg told of a 21-year veteran police officer he knows who retired because he spent the last full year of his career walking the halls of a junior high school solving crime.
"Children are shooting children even in Butte, Montana," he said.
Rehberg attributed the decline in the effectiveness of education to a shift in what schools today are expected to accomplish. He read an e-mail message sent to a syndicated radio host as evidence of what schools today are expected to accomplish.
The message contained 39 different programs and activities that have been added to the average curriculum since the turn of the century.
The programs, including such courses as HIV education, sex education, marriage and family, drug awareness education and bicycle safety education, venture into the arena of social engineering that Rehberg said are not the responsibility of schools.
"Schools should not be the primary teachers of social values," he said, adding that they should be should be taught at home by parents and by churches.
"The bottom line is that schools can't do it alone," he said. "Schools cannot raise America's children."
He said that if elected he would introduce a Senior Education Outreach Program that would allow retired men and women who want to aid in the school systems to do meaningful work without it affecting their retirement income or social security.
He also promised that he would introduce legislation that would guarantee 95 percent of the money that is appropriated in Washington D.C. for schools in Montana will make it back to the classroom.
"Writing more checks for the same old same old, just isn't going to cut it anymore," he said. "It's time that we end that siphoning by the education industry of the money that is being taken out of our pockets that never makes it back to the kids."
Rehberg also promised to host a state-wide educational town hall meeting in the near future to listen to what Montanans have to say regarding education. He said he will be inviting people from all walks of life and from throughout the education system to participate.
He told the Republicans that it is time to quit making excuses and to search for long-term, rather than Band-Aid approaches to solutions. He emphasized what he called "common sense values and common sense principles," the most important being family.
"The education we give (the children) should be rigorous and demanding," he said. "Because our goal must be excellence."