Education has been one of the hardest hit sectors by COVID-19. These unprecedented circumstances have impacted schools, families, and communities. As your State Superintendent, I will continue ensuring that the Office of Public Instruction is your advocate at the state and national level in ensuring that safety, learning, and teaching continues despite COVID-19.
Since COVID hit Montana in the spring, I have been advocating for flexibility and funding for local schools from the Governor, Board of Public Education, and federal government. I am proud to say that we have secured many of these requests but there is still much work to be done.

 

Montana was one of the first states in the nation to get our ESSER dollars out after the CARES Act passed. Over $41 million flowed to Montana’s schools. I ensured that every Montana school received at least $10,000. Additionally, I sent out $3 million to support our special needs students through these difficult times.

 

Now more than ever, public education needs an experienced state leader with a track record of success. You have my commitment that as State Superintendent, I will continue being your advocate and an advocate for your students, teachers, and communities. Our schools and families can’t afford on-the-job leadership training in the middle of this school year and going into a tough Legislative Session.

 

In my second term, in addition to continuing to respond to COVID related needs, I look forward to advancing our Legislative priorities and expanding upon the OPI’s education initiatives. The last two Legislative sessions, I ensured that K-12 public schools were fully funded early in the session.

 

Additionally, I am advocating that the Broadband for Montana Schools program be transferred to OPI from the Department of Commerce so that we can get better internet out to Montana schools and families.

 

Beyond the Legislative session, the OPI is supporting students, teachers, and school leaders under four banners: Montana Hope, Montana Teach, Montana Learn, and Montana Ready.

 

Montana Hope is the whole-child approach to education. I have secured, and will continue to seek, federal, state, and private-partner grants to support our work in social-emotional instruction, multi-tiered systems of support, nutrition, and special education. Just this school year, I secured a $3.5 million grant to support special education professional development from the Department of Education, a $9 million grant from SAMHSA for additional Project AWARE support, and a $100,000 grant from the Montana Healthcare Foundation for creating school-based health centers in communities with high needs.

 

Montana Teach is building up the best possible teachers in your classrooms through professional development and addressing teacher recruitment and retention through a grow our own model in partnership with Montana’s teacher prep programs.

 

Montana Learn is providing our students with the world-class education that they deserve, no matter where they are in our state. In past sessions I have worked with the University of Montana to get the Montana Digital Academy its own dedicated funding. Additionally, Montana’s State Plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act places emphasis on Career and Technical Education, Advanced Placement, dual enrollment, and other courses focused on student success. As we revamp Montana’s state content standards, the focus will be on creating standards relevant to student success in the 21st century. We are currently finalizing revisions to the CTE, Computer Science, Library, Social Studies, and Technology standards. Next year we’ll begin reviewing Math and World Languages and might look at other additions as well.

 

Finally, Montana Ready is the culmination of the previous three initiatives; preparing students for success in careers and college by ensuring that they graduate with tangible skills. Under my leadership, the OPI has expanded our partnerships with Montana’s businesses and industries and placed additional emphasis on Career and Technical Education. We must keep students in state by providing them opportunities to begin high-paying careers through in-demand jobs in Montana’s economy. The Department of Education approved Montana’s Perkins V plan over the summer and we’re getting to work on creating 21st century CTE programs for students. I have also reengaged the OPI with the Montana Chamber’s Youth Entrepreneurs program.

 

I am Elsie Arntzen, your State Superintendent. It has been my honor to work alongside you these past four years. I am asking for your support and your vote today so that we can continue building on our accomplishments for Montana students, families, and educators. Thank you.