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Stand Up For Education rallies rock the state!

Great Falls rally report
Rally helper Jerry Rukavina reports: The Great Falls SUFE drew 150 folks from Great Falls and the surrounding Golden Triangle area.

Longtime PTA leader Cathy Day was our very able MC. Both local TV news stations were in attendance the full hour, as was the Great Falls Tribune reporter.

Speakers were clearly "on message." Local legislators Don Ryan and Sue Dickinson took time to be present and talk to folks afterward.

Crowd rallies for education”
Dunn, others say lawmakers need to step up to the plate

By SONJA LEE, Tribune Staff Writer, March 2, 2003

If Governor Judy Martz's budget is OK'd, Great Falls' taxpayers could be asked to approve a $600,000 mill levy which likely would be followed by another $876,000 mill levy request, according to Superintendent Bryan Dunn.

At the same time, the school district will still face about $1.1 million in cuts.

"That's the best-case scenario," Dunn told a crowd of about 150 people gathered in the Bill Williamson Auditorium at C.M. Russell High School Saturday. It's not the scenario Dunn wants to see play out.

The crowd gathered to send the message that Montanans support public education and lawmakers need to step up to the plate. Dunn, along with five other speakers, asked the crowd to join forces and fight for education. The rally in Great Falls was one of nine events held across the state.

Former Democratic Sen. Steve Doherty of Great Falls said Montana can't cut its way to prosperity. There are alternatives like sin taxes or tourist taxes and other methods of raising revenue, he said.

Doherty's remark that it is time to "educate our apparently difficult to educate governor" that the time has come to find some real solutions received some of the loudest applause from the audience. After Sapphire Diamant-Rink, a senior at Browning High School, presented a speech she wrote about the importance of education, a thunder of applause and a standing ovation followed. The crowd then chanted "Keep the Dream Alive!" and exited the auditorium.

"It's an important message," Diamant-Rink said. It's only halftime at the Legislature, and the game could go either way, said Cathy Day of Great Falls, state Parent Teacher Association president. Day urged the audience to make sure education comes out the winner.

Mary Sheehy Moe, dean of MSU-Great Falls College of Technology, and Rick Evans, president of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, also discussed the importance of education and its ties to the future workforce.

"It's time for us all to stand up for education," said Patty Meyers, a 1998 teacher of the year.

Karen Wellman, a second-grade teacher from Fort Benton and Patty Paulson, a Fort Benton Title I teacher, both said they are concerned about the future.

"I see the loss of money and the effect it is going to have," Wellman said.

She said she left the rally knowing there is hope and alternative funding sources are available. It's just a matter of making lawmakers realize it, she said.

Judy Kinonen, who taught at Sacajawea Elementary School for 34 years, said she hopes the enthusiasm spreads to Montana's legislators and residents.

The rallies were sponsored by the Stand Up For Education coalition, a mix of groups supporting elementary and high schools, as well as higher education.

The coalition is composed of more than a dozen groups, including MEA-MFT, the Montana Parent Teacher Association, School Administrators of Montana, the Montana School Boards Association and the Montana Rural Education Association.

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