Success Stories > Community Meetings

Stand Up For Education Community Meetings 2002


Thousands of Montanans across the state attended the 10 Stand Up For Education (SUFE) community meetings in April and May of 2002. They heard shocking stories about the local impacts of inadequate state funding for public schools, colleges, and universities.

And they heard a rallying call to action.

"We held these meetings to give Montanans information and hope," said Sanna Porte, MEA-MFT communications director and a state coordinator for Stand Up For Education.

"The response has been electrifying. Montanans made it clear they will not stand by and let the state starve our excellent public education system. We doubled and occasionally tripled our turnout goals for every one of the meetings, and we got superb news coverage across the state."

Stand Up For Education won a major national award for this campaign (National Education Association PR Council of the States, first place for community organizing).

Power to the panelists

Each community meeting featured the Stand Up For Education video created by MEA-MFT, followed by a panel of local K-12 educators, higher education, parents, school board members, and business people.

"The panelists were essential to the success of these meetings," said Erik Burke, MEA-MFT public policy director and a SUFE coordinator.

"The video is powerful, and the panelists brought its message home by talking about the local impacts of inadequate state funding. They made it real and personal."

Meeting highlights

April 11: Butte

Excerpts from the Butte Standard article:

Rose Brock, chairwoman of the Butte school board, spoke about closing Longfellow Elementary last spring, saying state lawmakers and funding requirements forced the board's hand.

"The decision to close a school was really made by the lawmakers in Helena," she said.

April 16: Helena

Excerpts from the Helena Independent Record article:

Helena School Board Chair Julie Mitchell provided a long list to the audience of $3.5 million in cuts she has seen in her four-year tenure as a trustee. Mitchell and her fellow panelists encouraged those in attendance to become active in the legislative process and work for change.

"It is not up to us to come up with a solution," Mitchell added. "We need to make the pie bigger, and our slice should be the first one out."

April 17: Hamilton

Excerpts from the Ravalli Republic article:

Comprised of school and children's groups who believe school funding is a major problem, the Stand Up for Education Coalition is hosting 10 such meetings across the state to inform people about school funding woes, according to Eric Burke, director of public policy for MEA-MFT.

"We want to create an awareness and a conversation and keep it going through the next legislative cycle -- keep it on the front burner," he said.

April 24: Missoula

Excerpts from the Missoulian article:

That Montana's education system is in crisis was the consensus of a group local educators, parents, and politicians who met Wednesday night.

Paul Williamson, dean of the College of Technology, said the most important way people can get involved is to stay informed.

"The crisis is simply a crossroads," he said. "We do have options here in Montana."

April 25: Havre

Excerpts from the Havre Daily News article:

"The current state funding formula doesn't work. It's based on student enrollment," said [president of Havre Parent Teacher Organization Angela] Slade. "That makes no sense."

"You're already making a difference by being here tonight," said [school board member Kathie] Newell. "The more we become aware, the more people who can march along with us."

April 25: Bozeman

This was our largest community meeting in the state. Excerpts from the Bozeman Chronicle article:

Education in Montana is "slowly being starved to death," Bozeman School Superintendent Mike Redburn told a pro-education crowd.

Redburn was one of several speakers at the "Stand Up for Education" meeting, held to show support for pumping more state dollars into Montana's public schools and University System.

"Make sure you know which candidates really are for kids," said Barbara Brown of the American Association of University Women, "and which are just kidding."

April 29: Kalispell

Our second largest community meeting. Excerpts from the Daily Inter Lake article:

An overflow crowd took over every seat, wall, and floor space to rally for schools. [Community college instructor David] Scott received thunderous applause when he addressed new political candidates in the audience.

"I haven't heard a single politician who didn't have education as a top priority," he said. "Could we have some politicians who have education as a top priority in budgeting?"

April 30: Eastern Montana

Folks came to the Glendive community meeting from all over Eastern Montana! Excerpts from the Glendive Ranger Review article:

With so many teachers leaving, state officials, concerned parents, and educators are wondering how Montana will continue to offer the high quality education the state has become famous for.

This was the topic of a meeting sponsored by Stand Up For Education.

"We can't afford to continue to fall behind, and it all boils down to funding," Fladmo said [Diane Fladmo, Prairieview Special Services Director].

May 2: Billings

Excerpts from the Billings Gazette article:

[School board member Conrad] Stroebe suggested urging the legislature and Governor Martz to embrace the recommendations of the Public School Funding Advisory Council that Martz appointed.

"Call the governor and tell her to listen to the advisory council," Stroebe said. “You don't appoint an advisory council and then not listen to them."

Sanna Porte [of MEA-MFT and Stand Up For Education] said she is pleased that so many groups have come together to support education, including the state's business community.

"I think it says something about who we are as Montanans, all of us pitching in for Montana's kids and Montana's future," she said. "It also says something about how serious this problem is."

May 9: Great Falls

Excerpts from the Great Falls Tribune article:

Businessmen and educators on the panel also told an audience of 225 educators and parents that the economic development and new jobs the state seeks depend on keeping the quality high in public schools and universities.

"Education is crucial if we are ever to achieve the economic development we need," said Rick Evans, president of the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce.

The pitch did not fall on deaf ears. Fifteen Great Falls-area legislators and candidates attended.

Stand Up For Education
1232 E. Sixth Avenue
Helena, Montana 59601
(406) 442-4250