We can do better for our kids


Last updated 9/26/2023 at 11:36am

I just love the first day of school. Watching my son walk to the bus stop on his first day of high school this year, I reflected on the optimism and excitement a new school year brings to both parents and children. When we run into one of his teachers at the grocery store or at a local park, my boy’s face lights up and mine does too. We know his teachers care about him and are invested in his learning. Every parent in Montana should be able to take their child to school confident that they will be safe and will be taught by a quality teacher.

Instead, that confidence is slipping. We currently have record-breaking teacher vacancies across the state, especially in rural areas. We have new laws that threaten to take money, your tax money, away from our public schools. Friends, we can do better.

I am running for state superintendent of schools so I can be a voice for parents, an advocate for teachers, a champion of students, and a leader future generations can count on. Our students, teachers and our state deserve a leader who will bring confidence and pride back to the Office of Public Instruction. 

I recently visited northeast Montana after announcing my candidacy. I attended the annual pow-wow in Poplar, had ice cream with folks from Sydney and Glendive, enjoyed coffee with Miles City residents, listened to Laurel community members, and stopped by to celebrate workers at the Billings Labor Day picnic. Everywhere I go, Montanans tell me they need strong public schools that will help our students graduate with the skills they need to be successful in college, the military, or the workforce.

Our communities ask just one thing of us — to work together to improve Montana’s public schools, grow a stronger economy, and help kids be all they can be. As a former teacher and legislator, I have fought my entire career to make sure those improvements, that growth, and those success stories happen.

Like every parent, I want my child to be successful in school so he can accomplish his dreams. 

I also understand that education can be a bridge to high-paying jobs for the next generation. That doesn’t happen by chance. It happens with the vision that comes from viewing education from a variety of perspectives.

I’ve served as a history teacher, basketball coach, education policy advisor to Governor Bullock, dean of a 2-year college and a state senator. I’ve built the relationships across the aisle and across the state necessary to refocus the Office of Public Instruction on providing customer service to our school districts, advancing policies that benefit our students and teachers, and working with the Montana legislature to ensure we have effective teachers and staff in every classroom. 

I am asking for your vote to be Montana’s next State Superintendent so together we make sure every student’s hopes and dreams are realized. We can and must do better.


Sen. Shannon O’Brien, D-Missoula, is a candidate for Montana superintendent of schools


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