Students in Jennifer Copley’s seventh-period AP government class never got a chance to ask Rick Jore, C-Ronan, about his appointment as chair of the House Education Committee. Jore, along with fellow Constitution Party members Marilyn Hatch and Kandi Matthew-Jenkins, spent the better part of their Friday afternoon in Missoula talking to three of Copley’s Hellgate High School classes.
After a brief dissertation on his party’s platform, Jore opened the discussion to questions. A half-dozen hands went up, but when the first query from a female student raised the issue of reproductive rights, Matthew-Jenkins and Hatch hijacked the bulk of the remaining 25 minutes to lecture the girl that abortion is murder, passing a life-sized plastic fetus back and forth like a baton. A handful of students grumbled and rolled their eyes; Jore stood off to the side looking uneasy.
Jore seemed more comfortable after class, talking to the Independent about the upcoming legislative session in which he—a Constitution Party member who just got done telling the Hellgate class that neither federal nor state constitutions contain provisions authorizing “welfare for education,” will chair the education committee.
That position has raised the hackles of Democrats, who fear Jore’s appointment will make the challenge of solving the state’s lingering school funding woes even more difficult. In 2005 the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature must develop an adequate funding mechanism. But Jore says he doesn’t believe more funding is the solution to the problems ailing Montana’s public schools.
“The Legislature is not constitutionally bound, in my opinion, under the separation of doctrine, to acquiesce to the court’s opinion,” he says. “I’m not at all convinced that continuing on the same path of just giving more money, and not addressing accountability and parental rights and authority, is the course we want to go.”
Given the closely divided Legislature and Jore’s hard-line position on public-education spending, Copley’s government class might have been a model after all for the kind of discourse Montana voters are likely to see when the session convenes in January.