Monday, December 11, 2006

The Billings Gazette gives the GOP a "thumbs down" on education

Today's Gazette was pretty tame. The front cover story was about Bighorn River usage, and a long series of articles is planned. There may be a story there for Montana Headlines, but none yet that is obvious.

Dipping back to yesterday's paper, the Gazette's weekly "thumbs up, thumbs down" feature gave a preview of the coverage that Republicans can expect when educational funding debates begin in Helena this coming legislative session.

In "DOWN: Anti-education chairman," the GOP was criticized for picking Constitution Party member Rick Jore to head the House Education Committee:

Against compulsory school attendance. For greatly decreasing public school funding. Swing vote giving the GOP control of the Montana House. Those are the qualifications that Constitution Party member Rep. Rick Jore brings to the post of House Education Committee chairman, a job he was given by GOP House Speaker Scott Sales of Bozeman.

The headline shows the bias, stating that being a critic of public education means that one is anti-education in general. Please also note that in the list of "qualifications," the Gazette somehow omits any positive qualifications. One of the biggest reasons why Sales chose Jore for the chairmanship was that Jore had experience serving on the committee in the past (back when Jore was still officially a Republican.) In Montana's term-limited legislature, experience is often in short supply.

It might be fairly said that Jore probably has demonstrated more sustained interest in quality education than most legislatures, since his children have been home-schooled.

The real reason for the Gazette's vitriol is revealed in the next item, "DOWN: Republican retaliation" --

Asked for a comment on Jore's appointment, House Republican leader Mike Lange of Billings told the Associated Press: "I don't recall the education community supporting the speaker, or myself either. They didn't win. That's the bottom line. If they want to control the committee, my recommendation to them is to be better at campaigning than they were. We owe them no explanation whatsoever." Does that mean the state's K-16 students lost the elections, too?

Translated: Lange is pointing out a simple fact, and that fact is that the teacher's unions are one of the Democrat Party's biggest and most activist voting blocs here in Montana. While there are certainly conservative teachers in Montana, the organized educational lobby is all pro-Democrat. This means that there are a lot of partisan Democrats teaching Montana's children, and Republicans generally aren't fond of the fact that their tax dollars go toward public servants who organize a partisan voting bloc against them.

The teachers' unions have been just as complicit in making education a partisan fight as have Republican legislators.

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