Issue Position: Education
I believe in education. I believe in the boundless potential of Montana's children and in the goodness and dedication of the families of Montana's children. And I believe there is power to change lives in the hearts and hands of Montana's teachers. Education is an enemy to poverty and a key to prosperity.
In Montana we are fortunate to have quality educators and excellent students. We all know that education creates opportunity. It is the key to unlocking the door to economic development in Montana. Without a skilled workforce Montana cannot compete with the rest of the nation in attracting and keeping businesses, and that means many of our children will have to leave Montana to find opportunity.
As a parent I would like to see my children have the opportunity to live and work and raise their own families in Montana. As your Congressman, I am working to do everything I can to see that all our children have that chance.
As your representative I have worked hard for funding increases for several programs that advance educational opportunities in Montana. Through the President's No Child Left Behind Act we were able to increase funding for after-school programs, safe schools, reading, special education, and to insure the quality of education for disadvantaged children.
One of my top priorities has been special education. Currently, the federal government is short-changing our nation's schools with regard to special education. About twenty-five years ago, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) -- a program created with the goal of seeing that every child has the opportunity to receive a quality public education -- was enacted into law. The federal government promised to pay for the mandated service for special needs students. While states have received funding, it is less than half of what was promised. Because of lack of funding, IDEA has created a situation in which mandates for special needs children take away from the ability of educators to provide the best quality education for non-special needs children. If IDEA had been fully funded, Montana would receive an additional $37.8 million per year to assist with public education, rather than forcing local taxpayers to pay for the federal mandate.
If the federal government would fulfill its obligation state education funds could be redirected in order to address problems like the need for facility construction and maintenance, removing the mold that plagues schools along Montana's Hi-Line, moving students out of broom closets and temporary trailers that have had to substitute for real classrooms, and many other necessities we simply cannot afford. I, along with several of my colleagues in the House, worked hard to make special education funding a priority for the President and House leadership. As a result, the President has included in his budget a schedule to fully fund the IDEA program within ten years.
I am pleased with many of the things we were able to get done in Congress this year, but I view them as a beginning and look forward to continuing my work to make sure that Montana's children continue to get a great education.