Oct 17, 2012 12:39 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Republican Sandy Welch is challenging Democrat Denise Juneau for her seat as Montana's next Superintendent of Public Instruction.
During the nearly four years that Juneau has held the office, high school graduation rates have increased, and student achievement is among of the highest in the nation.
Juneau is proud of her track record as superintendent.
"I love this job. I love being the Superintendent of Public Instruction. I think it's the best job that anyone can ask me to do," Juneau says. "I get to travel around and visit with students and hear their optimism that they have for the future, and it makes you optimistic about what our state and nation can be when you hear their hopes and dreams."
Juneau believes the biggest challenge facing Montana schools is preparing students for the 21st century.
"At a very minimum we need to make sure students have a high school diploma, so that they can take those next steps into their lives. Then not just that they have a high school diploma, but that they are college and career ready," Juneau says. "I know when students & people become educated, they are going to be much better off economically."
Juneau says if elected she will make sure all schools have the technology they need to succeed. She also wants to increase the legal drop out age to 18 and continue her Graduation Matters program.
Welch has some criticisms of Juneau. She says she isn't listening to Montanans.
"I've been campaigning a lot about local control," Welch says. "Parents want to be involved in their schools, communities want to know how their schools are doing."
Welch says schools need to start prioritizing basic academics like reading, writing and math.
"Every teacher focuses on student learning every single day," Welch says. "But you get to the point where you think the system isn't focused on it anymore. There are so many things. There are too many other priorities."
Both candidates have taught in the classroom, but they disagree on the teacher tenure system.
Welch would like to see reforms. Juneau supports the current system.
They also disagree on charter schools.
Welch supports a carefully crafted charter program. Juneau doesn't. She says its a step toward privatizing the public school system.