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Stand Up For Education rallies rock the state!

Bozeman rally report
Rally captain Marco Ferro reports: We had about 250 people at our rally. Unfortunately, only two legislators, Jent and Harris, showed up. Our speakers were great, and the crowd was enthusiastic!

“Seeking support: Educators, community pleads with lawmakers to raise revenue for school funding”

By ERIN EVERETT of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 2, 2003

Educators and community members gathered Saturday morning to send lawmakers a clear message about school funding:

"We must raise revenue," the group of about 250 recited in unison. "It is the rational, responsible and reasonable thing to do."

At the Stand Up for Education Rally at Emily Dickinson School, educators pleaded with legislators to spare schools from devastating cuts. Schools are at risk of losing millions as lawmakers wrestle with state budget deficit.

But cuts aren't the only solution to the budget crisis, said Carmen McSpadden, president of the Montana School Board Association.

"There's another answer -- raise revenue," she said, garnering applause from audience members, many of whom held fluorescent orange and green signs reading, "Montana kids are worth it."

She challenged lawmakers to consider taxes on tobacco, rental cars and liquor to squeeze more money out of tourists in the name of education.

McSpadden was one of several speakers at the rally, which traditionally is held at the state Capitol during legislative sessions. This year, several smaller rallies were held statewide to avoid an overwhelming crowd in Helena. Most of the rallies coincided, and all shared a prevailing theme:

"We must fully fund what we value," said Katy Paynich, Bozeman High School English teacher, "We must value our children's educations."

But some teachers questioned whether lawmakers value education, because only two of 11 invited legislators showed up.

"It's a slap in the face to everything else we've done," said Mary Anne Knighton, a librarian at Bozeman High School, referring to lawmakers' absence. "How much lip service are they giving to this very important issue?"

But the crowd welcomed with cheers and applause the two legislators who did attend --Representatives Chris Harris and Larry Jent, both Bozeman Democrats.

"Education is the most important core value that our legislature should be talking about during the second half of this session," Jent said.

Right now, Montana loses good teachers to better-paying states, and funding cuts will exacerbate that problem. But lawmakers don't have sole control over the solution.

"The revenue process is horribly governor driven," Jent said. "Much of your attention should be focused on the governor's office."

And Harris, who is sponsoring a bill that would tax car and snowmobile rentals to raise money, offered hope of sparing schools from budget cuts.

"Education funding is under attack and we have got to make a major comeback," Harris said.

Bozeman Schools Superintendent Mike Redburn thanked Jent and Harris, and had a message for other lawmakers:

"To all of our legislative leaders around this state: Inadequate school funding has pushed (schools) to the brink," he said, urging a focus on fund-raising. "Be bold and we will stand with you."

Stand Up For Education
1232 E. Sixth Avenue
Helena, Montana 59601
(406) 442-4250
sporte@mea-mft.org


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