Tester Strengthens Local Control, Delivers for Montana Students

Senator: I Went to the Mat to Secure Resources for Our Public Schools

(Great Falls, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is strengthening his commitment to investing in Montana’s public schools and strengthening local control during an event today with Great Falls Public School administrators, educators and parents.

Tester recently worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass a law that increases funding for critical education initiatives. During his visit to Skyline Preschool in Great Falls, Tester explained that Montanans–not Washington bureaucrats–know best how to educate students.

“A quality public education is critical for our economy, critical for our democracy, and critical for our future,” said Tester, a former public school teacher and school board member. “I went to the mat for our schools, held leaders of both parties accountable and fought hard for Montana’s students and teachers to make major investments in our schools so that every student reaches his or her full potential.”

Montana’s schools, teachers, and students are facing a range of difficulties including aging buildings, rising costs of early education, and teacher shortages.

Tester also addressed the National Debt, noting he voted against a recent bill that “took us over $2 trillion into debt” and “gave tax giveaways to the wealthiest people and corporations in America.”

“Our country can’t afford giveaways like that to the folks who need it the least,” Tester said. “I’m focused on the folks and places who need it the most: The kids who will be running this country in a few short years.”

Tester secured significant resources to address these issues in the bipartisan 2018 funding bill:

  • $250 million for Preschool Development Grants to help expand access to preschool. 
  • $1.4 billion for Impact Aid to help improve educational outcomes for military children and Native American students.
  • $15 billion in Title I funding to help disadvantaged and at-risk students reach their full potential. 
  • $2 billion in Title II funding to better recruit, retain, and develop teachers and principals. 
  • $1 billion in Title IV funding to improve student health, provide a well-rounded curriculum, and upgrade technology. 
  • $1.2 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that provide before school, after school, and summer programs that so many families rely on. 
  • $9.8 billion for Head Start. 
  • $5.2 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants that help low-income families pay for preschool and day care.
  • $12 billion to educate students with disabilities.

Great Falls teachers and parents praised these investments:

“A lot of teachers are retiring and we don’t have enough people going into education at this point to fill the shoes of the people who are retiring,” said Jeff Cowee, MEA-MFT Great Falls Field Consultant. “Title II funding is one of the things that helps with teacher recruitment and retention. I’d like to thank Senator Tester for getting this through. It helps our school districts, it helps our teachers.”

“We know that early childhood education makes a difference,” said Colette Getten, Early Childhood Coordinator at Skyline Preschool. “Head Start, child care, and special education, all of those dollars help fund this facility. Title I funds can be allocated for preschool services so we have several teachers who are paid out of that as well. Thank you so much Senator Tester for the funds that we are getting. Thank you for the work you’ve done.”

“Because of Skyline Preschool, Great Falls Public Schools, and these federal resources our son has access to speech, occupational therapy, and special education immediately,” said Teresa Schreiner, a Great Falls Public School Parent. “Our child had a 78 percent delay a year ago, he now has a 6 percent delay because of these resources. This happened in a school, it happened because of teachers.”

Tester recognized #PublicSchoolsWeek last month by introducing a bill to hold the government accountable, empower local educators, and improve accommodations for students across Montana. He also introduced a bill to hire more school nurses to improve student health.

A full summary of Tester’s work supporting public education can be found HERE.