Montana Constitution Requires Equity in Education | Letters
The Montana Board of Education has revised its ethical standards for teachers, which it does every five years. The word equity was included in the review, referring to a teacher’s recognition of the need for equity in education.
Equity in education is different from equality. The school funding formula is a good example. In the 1980s, small rural schools were underfunded because they lacked the tax base to raise the necessary funds. A series of lawsuits were filed, resulting in more funding for these districts. The basis for the lawsuits was Article X of the Montana Constitution, which requires the legislature to fairly distribute the state’s share of education funding. It does not mean equally. Billings public schools obviously need more money than Whitehall.
Equity also applies to other areas of education. Students come in all types, with their strengths and weaknesses, each with their unique needs. Equity means that every student gets what they need to succeed, and I was ethically responsible as a teacher to help them get that.
Gianforte’s anxiety about fairness may stem from ignorance of what is happening in public education. He is, after all, a supporter of private schools. The concept is deeply rooted in the system. Eliminating a word in an unofficial document published by an obscure subcommittee will make no difference.
So why worry about a word that represents a concept that can only be good for public education? There is a national discussion about fairness versus equality, led by right-wing think tanks like the Cato Institute. Their thesis is that every child should have an equal start in school, but not the extra resources to actually succeed. This seems to satisfy their desire to promote their agenda, which is every man for himself. Gianforte is aligned with this ideology.
Educational equity is not only good for Montana, but it is also mandated by the state constitution. Let’s move forward with fairness and let Gianforte sweat with his ideology-bound buddies.
Retired teacher from Montana for 26 years
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