Sunday, February 28, 2021

Letters to the editor Feb. 18

| February 18, 2021 12:00 AM

Tester should learn from Wheeler

Honorable U. S. Sen. Jon Tester:

When Franklin Roosevelt became President he put his “New Deal” into action and was having some pushback from one of the most powerful U.S. Senators, Burton K. Wheeler, a Democrat from Montana. Roosevelt had a meeting with Wheeler and basically said what can I do to get your support for my “New Deal” measures. Wheeler said: “Fort Peck Dam.” Deal done and a few weeks later planning and construction started at Fort Peck. This project put folks to work during the depression and created a massive public project that gave people jobs, electricity, flood control, recreation, etc.

Today you are sitting in the catbird seat with a 50-50 split in the Senate. There are tens of thousands of pipelines in this country which are safer than other forms of oil and gas transportation, plus we would be dealing with our friends in Canada. The XL Pipeline is needed for many reasons and we believe you know them all. Montana would benefit greatly both in good paying jobs and tax revenue; also a better price for our Bakken oil.

Rep. Jim Keane, a Butte Democrat and John Brenden a Scobey Republican, are miles apart in distance, but have worked together many times on natural resources, agriculture and business in the Montana Legislature and we are very good friends. We urge you to be the next Sen. Wheeler and tell President Biden you need the XL pipeline for your support of his projects.

You can be that man!

—John Brenden, Scobey

Accountability needed for tax credits

Last week I listened to the committee hearing on HB 279. If you’re not familiar, HB 279 seeks to increase income tax credits benefiting private schools in the state from a limit of $150 to $200,000. You read that right, an increase of 133,233%. I have been an educator for more than 20 years, I am currently employed because of school choice, and I serve on a local school board.

I am not against school choice and what it can mean for students. I am an advocate for every student receiving a quality education. I believe that schools should be more innovative. I am also convinced that how school choice legislation is implemented matters and certain legislation that is advertised as school choice is largely defund public education. That is my concern with HB 279.

I mentioned being an educator for more than 20 years. Six of those years were teaching public school in Arizona where there has been similar tax credits since 1998. Those have not led to increased student achievement, have diverted necessary funding, and have lined the pockets of state legislator, Steven Yarbrough. He was instrumental in getting the tax credit laws passed, then became executive director of one of the largest school-tuition organizations and if you follow the money made millions.

I’m glad HB 279 does limit the scholarship amount to not exceed the per-pupil spending in Montana public schools, but it needs further amending. The $200,000 limit is an absurdly high leap from the current $150. The scholarship organizations should be required to put a minimum of 95% of tax credit funds toward scholarships and private schools that receive this public money from tax credits must have accountability. Montana, let’s not defund the education of the 94% of our K-12 students that attend public schools.

— Julie Kreiman, Bigfork