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Carlson says anti-education slant appearing in legislation


Last updated 3/25/2015 at 7:54pm

Some of the legislation being introduced to the Montana legislature this session has an “anti-public education slant” to it, said Havre School Superintendent Andy Carlson.

Carlson addressed Hill County Democrats on the education bills before the Legislature this year. He had a receptive audience from the Democrats whose members in the Legislature have been more open to bills supported by the mainstream public educational establishment.

In his discussion Tuesday night, Carlson said he has not talked to the Hi-Line delegation in Helena on education issue except at the weekly video conferences, and they have not sought out his opinion.

Local lawmakers are often at odds with Carlson on education issues.

Carlson said it appears to that Gov. Steve Bullock’s Early Edge program is dead, though there are efforts to revive it.

The governor wanted to provide pre-kindergarten education to everyone who wanted it.

He said, should it pass, the Havre district would probably work with existing pre-kindergarten programs in the community. “We have some real good ones,” he said.

Already, he said, the district runs a pre-K program for young students who may be technically eligible for kindergarten but are not yet academically ready.

Still, he said, there are some pre-kindergarten students who are not being served.

“If our community wants us to offer pre-kindergarten to those who need it, we will certainly do that,” he said.

At video conferences between local residents and Helena lawmakers, he said, he has heard some people point to research that he finds suspect.

Most research he has read shows that there are advantages to children if they attend pre-kindergarten programs, Carlson said.

The superintendent pointed to a piece of legislation he say has not received sufficient press attention that would require parents to “opt-in” to every course their children take.

In the past, there have been efforts to require parents to opt-in to sex education and health classes, but this legislation, he said, requires parents to agree to every course students take.

He said it would be a logistical nightmare for districts to undertake, he said. Many parents will simply forget to sign the paperwork, he said, and school officials will have to track them down.

“Charter schools don’t have to opt in,” a woman in the audience said, bringing a smile to Carlson, who is opposed to state funds for charter schools.

On the other hand, Carlson was pleased that this year, the legislation to grant cost-of-living increases in state assistance to schools early in the session so districts can prepare their budgets.

He was disappointed that special education programs were exempted from the cost-of-living increases.

He was concerned that legislation removing Montana from the Common Core standards is making progress in the Legislature so far.

Carlson said Common Core standards have worked very well and have been a big improvement over the No Child Left Behind standards that preceded them.

He was also upset over a variety of what he called “school privatization” bills that he said were under consideration.

He said he hoped that Gov. Steve Bullock would veto some of the legislation he finds objectionable, as he has done in the past.

But because of political pressures, “it’s going to be hard for him,” Carlson said.


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