The Gazette on Sept. 20 had an excellent explanation of the problems of funding Montana's public schools. The big schools are being shortchanged due to funding disparities. Also, small districts often cannot hire well-qualified teachers. The Legislature needs to evaluate and change the structure to benefit all our children.
The state Legislature must first define a small, essential rural school district. Montana is a rural state where terrain and weather may prevent travel of any distance. However there are many situations where a 10- to 15-mile bus ride would combine students from two or more smaller schools into a sizable district. This would allow students to learn from qualified, well-compensated teachers and learn social skills from each other.
The basic entitlement funding must be changed. Right now school districts are classified AA, A, B and C. There are only seven AA districts. That leaves about 310 smaller districts whose funding should be based on a scale which reflects their needs and population.
Montana has a reputation for good education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Montana's students ranked fifth in reading and math (2011), and 2nd in science (2009). Let's be sure we can maintain these standards.
Our children deserve excellent equipment, up-to-date materials and well-trained teachers. Also, those teachers deserve decent salaries, community respect and parental support. Tell your state legislators they need to get to work on this!