Oct 9, 2012 1:43 PM by Jen Fenter - MTN News

Governor, OPI candidate forum focuses on education

GREAT FALLS- Students, voters, and candidates gathered on Monday night at a forum hosted by Great Falls College-MSU.

The North Central Montana Association of School Superintendents sponsored forum, which focused on education issues as the November election draws near.

School administrators came up with questions for the candidates, and students from area schools presented the questions.

The participants included Steve Bullock (D) and Rick Hill (R), candidates for governor; and Denise Juneau (D) and Sandy Welch (R), candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Both gubernatorial candidates say that one of their top priorities if elected will be finding new ways to adequately fund education.

Hill believes Montana needs a long-term, more diverse plan, and suggests linking education to natural resource revenues, among other funding sources.

"The long-term plan is shifting the burden of education away from property tax. And I believe just that shift alone will benefit education in Montana," Hill said.

"He has suggested cutting $200 million dollars in property taxes, and says that will go into education, but it's not a new source of revenue that's coming in to education," Bullock countered.

Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates say there should be more focus on the core learning areas, and agree that data is helpful in providing the tools guiding education.

But the results of that data left some debate among the candidates.

"We can show that our test scores are up, our drop-out rates are down...and it's because we're doing it with the communities. We're doing it with partnerships across the state," Juneau said.

"My opponent recently reported that the graduation rate is up to 82.2%, but the year she was elected - GEMS reports the graduation rate was 83.6%. So I'm not quite sure on all the strides we've made," Welch stated.

A spokesperson for Juneau's campaign tells us that since Juneau took office, the graduation rate increased from 80.7% to 82.2%.


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