Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, released a letter this week critical of Montana Governor Steve Bullock's communication with schools across the state.

Arntzen stated in her letter that she's

"optimistic for the coming school year. I would rather be talking about the positive vision for Montana education than the Governor’s vacant leadership lacking transparency."

Part of Arntzen's dissatisfaction with the governor stems from the education community initially being left out of the Montana Coronavirus Task Force that the governor created back on March 3rd to help combat the coronavirus in the state.

"Under pressure, the Governor’s staff allowed the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to participate," Arntzen said. However, "after a few in-person and virtual meetings attended by the OPI’s school health and safety experts, the OPI received an email on May 4th from a Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) staffer stating: 'We are going to be canceling these meetings for the foreseeable future'.

Apparently, though, the Task Force continued to meet, according to Arntzen, but she was not informed. "This example showcases the Governor’s lack of communication and coordination resulting in misinformation being sent to school leaders," said Arntzen.

Arntzen also says in her letter that Governor Bullock has been silent on her requests for:

• Clarification on his school closure directive
• Verifying funding flow to schools for in-class time
• District enrollment requirements related to offsite learning
• School transportation support
• Local school district taxpayer support utilizing the Coronavirus Relief Funds
• For inclusion on the Montana Coronavirus Task Force
• Duplicative reopening schools guidance rationale
• Clarity regarding his ill-timed and inaccurately calculated school safety supply
• Repeated requests for calls to remedy the lack of communication

We'll see if the governor responds to Arntzen's requests. You can read her letter in its entirety below:

July 28, 2020
Governor Continues to Block Office of Public Instruction from the Table

I am optimistic for the coming school year. I would rather be talking about the positive
vision for Montana education than the Governor’s vacant leadership lacking transparency. On March 3rd, the Governor created Montana’s Coronavirus Task Force,
leaving out a significant sector impacted by COVID-19; the education community. Under
pressure, the Governor’s staff allowed the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to
participate.

After a few in-person and virtual meetings attended by the OPI’s school health and
safety experts, the OPI received an email on May 4th from a Department of Public
Health & Human Services (DPHHS) staffer stating: “We are going to be canceling these
meetings for the foreseeable future…”. The Governor has indicated the Task Force
continues to meet, yet that was the last I heard from the Task Force. This example
showcases the Governor’s lack of communication and coordination resulting in
misinformation being sent to school leaders.

The Governor has been silent on my requests for:

• Clarification on his school closure directive
• Verifying funding flow to schools for in-class time
• District enrollment requirements related to offsite learning
• School transportation support
• Local school district taxpayer support utilizing the Coronavirus Relief Funds
• For inclusion on the Montana Coronavirus Task Force
• Duplicative reopening schools guidance rationale
• Clarity regarding his ill-timed and inaccurately calculated school safety supply
• Repeated requests for calls to remedy the lack of communication

The Governor continues his negligent disservice to Montana’s students, families, and
educators. My agency has in good faith and in the spirit of cooperation offered
language, data, and support to aid good decision-making. In fact, a great deal of OPI
employee time has been spent remedying the education-related errors in the
Governor’s directives. These mistakes needlessly occurred and wasted resources that
could have been used for serving students.
I urge the Governor to join me at the table working for our students, families, educators,
and the great employees of the OPI.

Elsie Arntzen is Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction