I recently emailed all of the School Board candidates and asked them the following question:
Q: In this time of crisis when residents are out of work, are you in favor of acting as Bozeman and Belgrade did by cancelling, or rescheduling the levy for a later time?
E-City Beat will publish each of the candidates’ responses, completely unedited, and in the order in which we receive them.
The second candidate to respond was Kim Skornogoski. Below is her answer in its entirety:
A: As a working parent, the past four weeks have been a struggle. And I know for so many other families it’s significantly harder – they are single parents, they are trying to teach children at four different grade levels, they fear the growing stack of bills.
But these weeks have also opened my eyes to how hard teachers and our public schools work to give every child in our community the best education we can afford. My 7-year-old daughter had lessons online within a day of schools closing and a packet to work on within a week. Her teacher creates three recorded video lessons daily and another live teaching session online. And she calls my daughter to offer caring pep talks.
Despite all these efforts, it’s clear this isn’t the same as being in the classroom.
It’s also clear that schools matter.
Many struggling students don’t have access to technology or have engaged parents encouraging them to keep learning. When school resumes, they will need more help and more individual attention. They need local support more than ever.
Great Falls passed two levies in 12 years. Other school districts repeatedly pass levies and consequently other Montana AA schools are spending as much as $3,000 more per student. Last year, the school board chose to not ask for a levy and instead pulled money from reserves to prevent more deep cuts. We can’t afford to do this again, and we can’t afford more cuts.
In 10 years, the district has cut 100 teachers, and additional staff including librarians, aides and administrators. Today’s budget has not matched inflation. And the state funding formula only works for schools with steady enrollment increases or sharp declines – not stable or slow growing districts like Great Falls.
For elementary students, that means more crowded classrooms, less individual attention to push bright students and help struggling ones. For older students, it means competing for jobs and scholarships against graduates from schools that offer more opportunities.
Teacher training budgets have been shredded. Books and curriculum are outdated. Afterschool supports are gone. All of this impacts students and educational outcomes.
I know there’s a lot of discussion around administrator salaries. The state mandates the number of administrators based on the number of buildings and number of students. If we don’t meet their standards, we lose state funding. Looking at the four biggest school districts in the state – Great Falls has the lowest superintendent salary and is last in the number of district administrators. Great Falls has the second most students. District administration makes up only 5.35 percent of the budget. That’s again the least of the four comparable districts.
State law gives school districts one day annually to hold elections. This election falls at possibly the worst time, but I hope voters will choose to make a long-term investment in our kids and our community.
Voters have an opportunity to send a message:
To teachers – we appreciate you.
To students – we care about your futures.
And to businesses – we will invest in our community.
Investing in our children, their education and their future can’t wait.