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MT Educators Counting on Fed, State Assistance to Reopen

Some Montana legislators say the state will need to make cuts across the board because of a dip in revenue. (Erik Madsen/Flickr)
Some Montana legislators say the state will need to make cuts across the board because of a dip in revenue. (Erik Madsen/Flickr)
June 1, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Montana is drawing up plans to reopen public schools in the fall. Educators say they'll need assistance from the state and federal government to do that.

Amanda Curtis is a high school biology teacher in Butte and vice president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees. She said schools will need additional personnel and a stockpile of supplies including disposable masks, gloves and disinfectants. She said that's where federal funds from the House-passed coronavirus stimulus bill known as the HEROES Act will have to come in.

"Schools in Montana will not be able to open unless we see our senators supporting federal assistance to provide these services for Montana families," Curtis said.

She said public educators also are resisting cuts to the state's education budget. Montana has fared better than other states when it comes to funding levels, and Gov. Steve Bullock has said cuts aren't necessary right now. But some state legislators already are calling for cuts across the board.

Curtis said federal funding also is crucial to address a massive shortage in school nurses. About half of the state's counties don't have a school nurse service. She said this legislation could help reduce the shortage.

"There's no reason that any student in Montana shouldn't have access to a school nurse," she said. "And with this HEROES Act funding, our senators really have the option of getting nurses for our students."

While schools plan for the next academic year, they're still coping with the new normal of remote learning. Curtis applauded the 25,000 school employees serving 150,000 students across the state.

"It's not lost on a single person in the state right now what a valuable service public schools are and how we all pool our resources so that we can provide an amazing education for all of our students across the state," she said.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT