By Tim Leeds
The Montana Board of Education met Wednesday afternoon at the Montana State University-Northern Student Union Building Ballroom. The meeting was chaired by Gov. Marc Racicot.
After declaring a quorum present, the board heard recommendations from the committee on House Bill 528/Montana History, presented by committee chair Joyce Silverthorne.
The board accepted the committee's recommendations that the board fully support Article X of the Montana Constitution and all provisions of HB 528 and enjoins the Board of Regents, Board of Public Education, and Office of Public Instruction to be actively committed in their educational goals to create understanding about American Indian people and their histories and to foster respect for their respective cultures and world views.
The committee recommended policies be developed to ensure that educational standards, resources and accreditation guidelines, teacher training and professional development included relevant coursework requirements that enhance awareness of American Indian culture, language, history and contemporary issues, including tribal
The board heard reports from Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Crofts, State Superintendent of Public Schools Nancy Keenan and Amy Carlson of the Governor's Office of Budget and Program Planning (OBPP).
Crofts and Keenan presented preliminary information on budget requests. Both said the requests are in the early stages, with more complete and definite reports to be submitted later in the process.
Carlson presented a comparison of the Board of Education's request, the governor's budget and the final 2001 budget status. She presented a tentative timeline with submission of initial budget requests by the agencies to the governor by April 14, final budgets submitted to the governor between Aug. 1 and Sept. 1 and the governor's budget published on Nov. 15.
The effect of Senate Bill 184 with reimbursement to the education system for lost tax revenue was applied to much of the discussion of the budget reports. The group also discussed the approval of $18 million last year which has not yet been spent.
Racicot, Keenan and Crofts pointed out that it was too early in the process to make any estimations about final figures in the budget requests or legislative actions.
Racicot said discussion of the budgets is critical. He said due to the short timeline between final budget requests and procedures and the beginning of the terms of the new governor and legislators, his office is taking this year's process as seriously or more seriously than in past.
The board heard a report from Deputy Commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs Joyce Scott about an expected shortage in speech pathologists/audiologists in the public schools. Since Montana no longer has a master's program in the field, Scott presented several options for training or recruiting people for these positions, including using the WICHE Western Undergraduate Exchange Program or the WICHE Scholars program.
The options were presented as an alternative to bringing the program back to the University of Montana-Missoula, which cut its program in the 1980s. Scott said the estimated cost of re-instituting the program at UM-Missoula is about $500,000.
Erik Burke of the Office of the Governor presented information on the issue of teacher salary and shortages.
Burke said the Montana education system is creating and certifying more than enough teachers to fill a growing need, but only about one-third actually teach in Montana. He said due to relatively low salaries, an estimate of one-third of the Montana graduated teachers teach out of state, and one-third take non-teaching jobs.
Burke said the problem is hiring and retaining teachers in the state. He said a governor-appointed task force will examine this issue.