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Changes proposed for Montana school counselors, librarians, arts, music draw concern

Posted at 9:05 AM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 11:05:45-04

BILLINGS - Some parents in Montana have concerns about some proposed changes to schools in the state.

Those changes include how many librarians and counselors are required in schools — as well as changes to elective programs like music and art.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) updates the state's administrative rules for education about every 10 years. The OPI says the proposed changes will help with quality education, and some have some concerns with those potential changes.

A committee is now reviewing proposals for changes to Chapter 55 of the Administrative Rules of Montana.

"I'm a school librarian," one woman said during public comment on the OPI Zoom meeting. "I'm a social studies educator and a parent of two kids in our public schools. I do not support any of these changes as a librarian and I see value in what we do every day. In the school. I see value in what our counselors do every day."

The meeting started with 15 minutes of public comment with parents weighing in as a normally obscure committee gathered Wednesday to discuss school accreditation standards. Nearly all of them voiced concerns about potential changes for librarians and counselors — and changing the education requirements for arts and music.

"I'm a music educator," one man said during public comment. "I am opposed to the changes."

"I'm a parent to a seventh grader who has benefited from music education," one mother said. "I'm opposed to the changes."

State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen, (R-Mont.) said those changes would be left up to local school boards.

Elsie Arntzen 5-18-22.jpg
KTVQ photo

"Where we are right now then is to allow local control the board of trustees to determine after math and reading and science and health enhancement have been used in classrooms," Arntzen said. "But whatever else electives they could use. Let's let them decide."

Many schools — especially in rural districts — have struggled to hire teachers and the proposed changes would eliminate the ratios of librarians and school counselors to students.

"I agree with the previous speakers that our ratio should be going lower and not be eliminated," said a woman, who is a school counselor.

Currently, it's 400-to-1 for counselors and under the proposal, school boards will determine the ratio.

"We're asking school districts and if there are no ratios, why not say that you have five counselors per 400 students it's your choice," Arntzen said.

A taskforce will go over the proposals on Thursday.

The committee will then go over those and the superintendent's proposals and give its recommendations by the end of June.