Funding was the weightiest issue on the minds of school trustees and administrators in the hours before school elections in Missoula and the Bitterroot on Tuesday, May 3.
“Missoula traditionally has supported the schools and the school levies,” said Missoula Superintendent Jim Clark, “so dollars are built in [to the budget] anticipating, and certainly hoping, that voters will support us again.”
Though voter turnout was just over 10 percent to elect trustee Thomas Orr and challenger Teresa Jacobs over Chairwoman Rosemary Harrison in the Missoula County Public Schools’ (MCPS) trustee election, all three MCPS levies passed. Those levies, plus additional funds from the state’s school funding bill, House Bill 63, could increase Missoula’s high-school budget by a maximum of $1.3 million and the elementary-school budget by a maximum of over $1 million.
In Darby, the prospect of teaching “objective origins” as a counterpoint to evolutionary theory has been a hot-button issue, but school board Chairman Bob Wetzsteon said that in this election, “the biggest issue would be funding.” Two of Darby’s five board members, Doug Banks and Elizabeth Bender, have supported an objective origins curriculum in the past, but Donald Ray, who was elected Tuesday to replace trustee Mary Lovejoy (Lovejoy moved), has not.
Rod Miner, coordinator of Ravalli County Citizens for Science, said he supported Ray, and that in “calling people to encourage them to get out and vote [prior to the election], several of the people mentioned [objective origins] as an issue that they were concerned about. They don’t believe it’s gone away.”
In Hamilton, District Clerk Gail Atherley said one of four candidates, Harris Himes, was running on an objective-origins platform, but that their “biggest issues are budgetary issues.” Himes, however, received the fewest votes on Tuesday; trustees Al Mitchell and Dan Moerkerke were reelected to the two open seats.