Gubernatorial Candidates Pogreba-Neiffer in the News

by jhwygirl

Yesterday, gubernatorial candidate Don Pogreba had a guest op-ed in the Billings Gazette, explaining what quality education means for Montana, and what it means to him. Shane Mason over at Montana Netroots does an excellent assessment of Pogreba’s piece, and along the way adds his own thought on what education means in in his own hometown of Helena.

It’s a good discussion to have – there’s lots of talk about it – education funding: more money? enough money? lawsuit? – but little talk of why additional funding might make sense and why it is sorely needed. Pogreba makes some excellent points in the Billings Gazette:

So it is with some dismay, but certainly no surprise, when I read about Sen. Roy Brown and members of the Montana Legislature talking about developing Montana’s resources while giving so little support to our most valuable resource: the students who will one day run our state, create new businesses and volunteer in our communities. Minerals and timber, agriculture and oil are all important for Montana’s economy, but their value is constrained by market forces often beyond our control. Montana certainly relies on its resource economy, and we should be proud of the food and power we’ve provided the nation and world, but that’s not all we can be.Far too many of our state’s political leaders are more concerned about resource extraction than resource development. We need to commit ourselves to developing the resource potential of our poorest students, who need stronger preschool programs to prepare themselves for school.

We need to develop the talent on our reservations, so that a new generation of leaders can ensure the future of Montana’s first peoples.

And we need to make sure that students in rural and high-poverty schools have access to the kind of technology that will ensure the kind of quality jobs that will let them stay in Montana. In short, we need to focus our energy on the one resource that is limitless, inexhaustible, and not bound by market forces: human potential.

Rather than acknowledge funding shortfalls, conservative critics of education would like you believe that Montana is already spending too much on its education programs. Despite laudable increases in the last few years, statistics demonstrate that Montana has failed to keep pace with the spending necessary for quality education. The conservative American Legislative Council just issued some troubling statistics about education spending in Montana. According to their research, we rank dead last in the nation in compensation for education professionals, and 42nd in the rate of growth in education expenditures, from 1986-2005. These figures demonstrate not only how much more remains to be done, but just how much damage 16 years of defunded education under the Stephens, Racicot, and Martz administrations has done.

What I like about that statement above is that he weaves a wealth of issues into that short portion of his guest op-ed: Montana’s youth, natural resources, priorities, and the failures of Montana Republican’s when it comes to addressing all of those issues. It’s not like education funding was a problem Schweitzer created.

I ask you (Big Swede, because I know it’s coming) – is this the voice of a pseudo-candidate?

I say that because all I’ve seen from Schweitzer on the issue of education funding is “no” – meaning ‘no more – you have enough’ – I’ve not seen any reason from him on why he thinks education has been funded adequately (other than the fact that he’s increased it) yet when I read Pogreba on the issue, I’d say he makes a pretty darn good case for increasing it more.

Pogreba, on the other hand, offers other reasons. Take this quote, for example, from today’s front page of the Missoulian:

Despite some additional spending, Montana hasn’t complied with the 2004 and 2005 District and Supreme Court decisions that declared the state funding unconstitutionally inadequate.

There were some increases, but it wasn’t enough to offset some years of underfunding and the difficulty of enrollment problems in small schools.

Or this:

I think more money for education will prevent the need for more money for corrections.

I’ve never understood why we want to send more money for jail cells and not for textbooks.

Sure makes sense to me. A short-term investment in education instead of a long-term investment in jail facilities along with all the other welfare-like amenities (for lack of a better term) that comes with it? Tell me how that doesn’t make sense.

And to be honest, the whole lack of focus on the “why” story behind educational funding has worked – up until now – a pretty successful smokescreen for me. Up until now I was pretty ho-hum about the issue, but Pogreba has me thinking that perhaps there’s a darn good reason for why, perhaps, there should be more.

That’s more than I’ve thought about it before – and disparities between the quality of education that are certainly obvious, across the state, makes me realize how wrong I’ve been to not look beyond the invisible wall I’ve put around Missoula and not look beyond to places like Glendive or Havre or Browning or Hardin. What potential are we, as a state, losing in places like those when we don’t invest in our kids?

I have decided that, for me and my primary vote – which will be for the Democratic ballot, thank you – is going to come down to a pretty large focus on natural resources. All of the candidates are going to say a whole lot of essentially the same stuff. The Democratic ballot is blessed with a wealth of qualified candidates, and in looking at their websites or the stuff you see in the news, it is hard to discern anything that sticks out.

So I will be searching for the differences, which will include their records, of course, but also a search of where they stand on natural resource issues.

In Montana, education – which is obviously important to both Pogreba and Neiffer, as both are teachers – is intrinsically intertwined with natural resources because of the trust lands that help fund any number of educational institutions in the state – all public K-12, the various universities, and all sorts of other things (I think some public buildings are funded as well).

And Pogreba recognizes that not only are natural resources in Montana intertwined with education funding – but that Montana’s children are part of our very basic natural resources.

  1. goof houlihan

    As soon as we have school choice, I’d support more money for education. We still drive an edsel education system in a lexus/electric car world.

  2. Are you thinking choice is the solution? How would the public educational system compete? I guess I’m assuming you’re talking about vouchers.

    I guess I believe that our government has an obligation to educate – and weakening the ability to do that as efficiently as possible doesn’t seem prudent.

    Vouchers, eventually, but we’ve got to bring that edsel up to 21st century standards first, I guess.

  3. I’m afraid the conservative scheme to destroy public schools known as vouchers probably won’t fly in Montana. In 99% of districts, what would it mean? There aren’t any competing schools or the possibility of any.

    In many of the larger districts, students and their parents already have choice–they can transfer across district boundaries.

    I’ve never believed that a massive transfer of funds from the public schools to private schools is in the nation’s interest, either. Perhaps many private schools are doing better than public schools, but will voucher laws mandate that they take the most difficult students? Special ed students? Emotionally disturbed students?

    Of course not. So before we sing the praises of private schools, let’s measure them by the standards and requirements of public schools.

    On another note, thanks for profiling the issues of our campaign. :)

  1. 1 Engage with Gubernatorial Candidate Don Pogreba « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] got gubernatorial candidate Don Pogreba – who comments under the name Pogie in this post on […]

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