Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Critical choices on school election ballots

by Daily Inter Lake
| April 23, 2023 12:00 AM

School election ballots hit area mailboxes earlier this week, and there are no shortage of trustee candidates for voters to consider.

Remarkably, every district fielded enough candidates for contested races — a striking contrast to school board elections not too many years ago when candidates were sometimes elected by acclamation due to a lack of interest in open seats.

That’s certainly not the case today, with heated debates about curriculum and school funding, and a widening teacher shortage amplifying valid concerns around the future of public education in Montana. It’s heartening to see so many residents take an active interest in our local schools and building a better future for today’s youth.

Over the last week, the Daily Inter Lake has published candidate bios from each school district to help you navigate your ballot. The Q&As are posted online if you missed the print edition.

As you pore over the choices, look for the candidates with resumes that indicate they are qualified for the job. Can they manage finance and budgets? Are they capable of maneuvering the complicated mechanics of state tax laws, enrollment and reams of policy procedure? Will they come to the table prepared, ask good questions, hold school administrators accountable when necessary and be responsbile stewards of public funds?

These are key characteristics to look for in a trustee.

A trustee’s role is far more complex and important than the inflammatory cultural narratives that seethe from the political extremes. And while curriculum transparency and parental rights should, and likely will, be discussed, school boards deal with so much more.

What our schools need now more than ever are knowledgeable, capable leaders focused on improving academic outcomes and meeting the needs of students. That’s what matters most.

Kalispell voters are also being asked to consider a pair of general fund levies. The high school general fund levy request is for $2,490,973 while the elementary general fund levy request is for $354,327.

This critical funding would cover a broad range of costs related to the daily operation of schools, including salaries and benefits, curriculum and supplies, utilities, technology and maintenance.

Kalispell voters have not passed a high school levy since 2007 — it’s well past time to end that streak, especially given the rising inflation rate that has jacked up the cost of everything. That includes local housing costs, which makes it even more challenging to recruit qualified teachers and staff to the area.

Rejecting these levies sets up the district for a budget shortfall and inevitable cuts that will directly affect quality of education. Help Kalispell Public Schools keep pace with other AA districts in the state and support these levies once and for all.

Every vote counts. Make sure your ballot is returned by 8 p.m. on May 2, election day.

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