Guest opinion: Don't buy Balyeat's argument against public schools

2013-02-07T00:05:00Z Guest opinion: Don't buy Balyeat's argument against public schoolsBy ERIC FEAVER The Billings Gazette
February 07, 2013 12:05 am  • 

Joe Balyeat (Feb. 2 guest opinion) is no friend of public programs and services, especially public education and the folks who serve therein. He would privatize our public schools at taxpayer expense. He would lay waste to the democratic public school governing structures outlined in our state constitution. Governing structures that empower us, the people, to own and control our local public schools.

This Americans for Prosperity chief Libertarian has a long history of anti-government, anti-public school endeavor.

Back in 1998, along with Rob Natelson, Joe attempted to amend our state constitution with a requirement that there be a public vote on every new tax and fee at every level of government from weed district to the Legislature. My union, MEA-MFT challenged CI-75 and won the expected Supreme Court decision that CI-75 was unconstitutional.

More recently, just last session, Joe sponsored Senate Bill 54 to kill the Teachers Retirement System defined benefit pension plan and dump all newly hired teachers into the worst-looking hybrid (a mix of defined benefit and defined contribution) retirement plan of all time. SB54 passed that “bat crap crazy Legislature.” At our request, Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed SB54.

In the same session, Joe sponsored two legislative referenda: Legislative Referendum 119 to require Supreme Court justices to be elected from six specific geographic districts around the state and Legislative Referendum 123 to authorize the legislative fiscal analyst to rebate a portion of our state’s ending fund balance on his own without specific legislative approval. Other parties challenged the constitutional integrity of LR119, and MEA-MFT challenged the constitutional integrity of LR123. The Supreme Court tossed both from the ballot.

Now, out of the Senate, but still yammering away, Joe would turn our quality public schools that serve all God's children over to private and religious interests and give huge tax breaks in the process.

Just say "NO" to Joe. Say "NO" to each and every bill meant to drown public schools in a bathtub.



Eric Feaver of Helena is president of MEA-MFT. To learn more about Montana's public schools, go to the MEA-MFT link with this guest opinion at

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