Northwest Montana recently was visited by a governor of note: Mr. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Gov. Walker was in the Flathead stumping for Republican Rick Hill, who is running against Steve Bullock for governor of Montana. Whereas, having noteworthy politicos from other states stumping for candidates for public office is commonplace, Scott Walker's presence is instructive.
Walker spearheaded what could be defined as a revolutionary movement against public employees in his state. Public employees had wages and benefits reduced and their right to bargain for better wages and benefits eliminated. Thousands of teaches and public employees lost their jobs, their retirement, their seniority and most of all, their dignity. Thousands of school teachers that remained are now making from $2,000 to $5,000 less because of the policies instituted by Walker. At the same time teachers were losing their jobs, Walker guaranteed tax breaks for big corporations. Some districts have 30 to 40 students in a classroom after teachers were fired without due process. Classrooms are so crowded in some districts that teachers don't have enough room to move around to give individual attention to students.
Wisconsin public employees are required in some instances to adhere to a policy handbook that require women teachers to wear skirts or dresses that are below the knee or define what teachers can do on their personal days. Teachers can even be dismissed from their teaching job if they get a speeding ticket. Public employees have borne the brunt of a systematic plan to privatize all state services.
Wisconsinites' reaction was swift and overwhelming: 100,000 came to Madison to protest the draconian austerity program. Walker was unfazed. In fact, he has become a cause célèbre to many Republicans like Rick Hill, and Walker brought his plan with him to the Flathead. It is the plan that Hill appears to have in mind for Montana.
Rick Hill calls Montana teachers the "second worst in the nation," and yet, Montana students are doing fairly well (according to Hill), performing in the top third to 15 percent in the nation. He has emphasized spending your tax dollars on subsidizing private charter schools, such as Stillwater Christian School.
What Rick Hill is promoting is nothing short of an attack on public education—a system dedicated to educating every student from every walk of life. What Hill and those that support his education "reform" fail to realize is that student working conditions are also teacher working conditions.
If you care about our school children, then one needs to be concerned about the attacks on public education by privately funded groups with deep pockets, such as Americans for Prosperity, which sees public education as a money-making enterprise under the euphemism "education reform"and by the snake oil salesmen such as Scott Walker and Rick Hill that these groups support and that do their bidding.
The Kim Williams Trail along the Clark Fork River is a beloved recreational treasure in existence for only 30 years. Imagine the uproar if the city or the University of Montana proposed building on it!
The UM Golf Course is every bit as precious to Missoula for its popularity and diverse recreational uses. But this recreational treasure has been in existence since 1916! In 2005, however, UM planned to build retirement housing on the course's open space. This occurred just before Missoulians approved a $10 million bond to purchase more open space for a growing community.
Missoulians rose up and successfully blocked this plan. But, in 2007, UM developed a new plan. It would build a South Campus there, deemed vital to UM's future. Ironically, then-president George Dennison had assured the Board of Regents in 2005 that the main campus could accommodate 23,000 students, 8,000 more than the school's record enrollment would be in 2010.
By 2011, however, plans had changed again, and the UM Golf Course would now be buried under a Missoula College (formerly the College of Technology) campus. The destruction of this open space would begin with one building, and it would stand alone for perhaps another decade.
Not addressed by the UM were: 1) the money and time devoted since 1994 to building a new COT campus on UM land at Fort Missoula; 2) the numerous UM-owned, build-able parcels including those on the main campus; 3) the negative economic effects on local profit and nonprofit businesses; 4) the negative environmental effects of increased traffic, noise, pollution and parking on the surrounding residents; 5) loss of an important student, faculty/staff recruitment tool; 6) the growing value and importance of urban multi-use open space as Missoula grows; and 7) changing teaching techniques (online courses, for example) that require fewer buildings.
Let's protect the multi-use "South Campus" open space when other suitable building sites exist for a new Missoula College we all support.
Ian M. Lange
My daughter and her family have lived in Montana for 10 years. We have visited them many times, but this time we discovered something that truly offends our family. Apparently the word "Montucky" is a slang term for the smaller Podunk areas of Montana, and those using this term are implying that you feel surrounded by inbred rednecks.
This is insulting and a bit surprising, given the fact that Montanans generally think highly of themselves (because of their slightly inflated egos) as tolerant, open-minded, nonjudgmental, enlightened people. "Montucky" sounds very narrow-minded and judgmental to me. I doubt many Montanans have ever visited Kentucky, and that's too bad. Yes, we have our rednecks, but my goodness, you do too! As far as inbreeding, well, look at your sparse population and think about it.
Here's hoping my grandchildren that live in Montana do not grow up to have that snobbish mindset.
Lebanon Junction, Kentucky
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