Interim ed committee tours facilities
Last updated 12/6/2021 at 9:35am
I pray everyone had a Thanksgiving to remember as we move into the Christmas season.
This past month has been a busy one for me. My education committee has been charged with a study to determine if incarcerated individuals are receiving the education the State of Montana is required to offer. We first toured the education department of the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. The education offered at the facility starts with the HISET — High School Equivalency Test — formerly known as the GED. Everyone at the prison has the opportunity to participate in HISET preparation courses, depending on their behavior. From this program, inmates can move onto additional programs, such as college classes, or technical classes like welding, woodworking, autobody, truck driving school, and mechanics.
While on the tour, our committee visited these programs, and it was clear that not everyone could participate, due to space limitations. The inmates transitioning to release had first priority. The prison also operates the farm and ranch where the prison is located, some 38,000 acres. Inmates do work outside of the prison fence, working the cows, dairy and hay, and learning how to work. The inmates working these types of jobs are low security inmates who can be trusted with vehicles and heavy equipment. The bus driver for the tour was one of the low security inmates who will be in front of the parole board this coming year. He had been through the CDL — commercial driver license — program at the prison. It has been made very clear to the committee that not all state prisons are educating to the degree the Montana State Prison is.
Continuing the tour on from Deer Lodge, we stopped at a number of schools, starting with Drummond Public Schools and ending in Missoula. In Missoula, we toured four schools, from kindergarten to the Missoula County Public Schools Agriculture Education and Industrial Technology Center, a 100-acre plot of land farmed and ranched entirely by agriculture education program students. At the farm, a USDA slaughter-to-meat packing plant is being used to teach students the full process of feeding to freezer. Students start with the caving, raising, and eventual processing.
After these tours, our Education Interim Committee met at the University of Montana to discuss our tour stops and time in the field. We also addressed the subject of how to get more educators to the schools who are so desperate for help. There is some money for what is called “grow your own” to encourage students to return home to teach. That was followed by a joint meeting with the Board of Regents.
Judy and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with three of our four kids and five of 11 grandkids in Wyoming. It is always good to be with family.
Have a safe and great Christmas Season!
Sen. Russ Tempel, R-Chester, can be emailed at [email protected]