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Gazette opinion: In a difficult time, school levy election has fantastic result

Gazette opinion: In a difficult time, school levy election has fantastic result

Teacher parade

School secretary Karen Yose decorates her car with balloons as teachers at Broadwater Elementary prepare for their "teacher parade" through the neighborhoods to wave and say hello to their students March 27.

Difficult process, fantastic result.

Billings' elementary school levy election, delayed by COVID and held after an unusually muted campaign as the city grappled with the public-health demands of the virus, passed by a comfortable margin in the most economically uncertain period the city has seen in many years.

That's amazing and commendable. Give yourself a big hand, Billings, and take a bow while you're at it. You have earned that and more.

Billings Schools Superintendent Greg Upham cited the increased communication between parents and the district necessitated by the quick conversion from classroom to remote learning. Upham believes that helped levy voters see what the district was up against, and the incredible value of the education it delivers.

The levy is a lifeline tossed to a district that was in danger of sinking into debt and dysfunction.

"This is pure operational (funding) — heat, lights, people," Upham said, and voters were convinced. While the levy will not forestall cuts the district has already announced, including 40 staff positions, passage does give the district an ongoing financial underpinning that it can build on — and will give parents increased confidence in the quality of education the district is poised to deliver.

Upham has advocated a culture of consistent levy passage, pointing out that Montana communities which consistently pass school levies have the best student outcomes.

Indeed, the big winners here are not school district officials, as justifiably happy as they are, or even teachers who may gain some job security. The biggest winners are the elementary school students who represent the future of this city.

Well done.


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