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State superintendent proposes changes for counselors, librarians, arts and music; educators concerned

Posted at 10:33 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 12:06:11-04

BILLINGS - The Office of Public Instruction 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 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, as well as 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 aftermath 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 rural districts have struggled to hire teachers. 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 one 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 task force 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.