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Educators, lawmakers sign letter supporting Montana schools superintendent


A group of Republican state lawmakers, school board trustees and citizens have signed a letter in support of Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. It follows a separate letter signed by the superintendents representing Montana’s eight AA school districts, which expressed disappointment in Arntzen’s leadership.

Missoula school trustee Mike Gehl says the superintendents’ letter of no confidence in Elsie Arntzen was both “unfair” and “politically driven.”

“It was a move to lambaste her as the election cycles [are] heating up and to denigrate the office, to bring her out in a negative light,” he said.

Gehl and Kalispell-area school trustee Jim Riley say many Montanans appreciate Arntzen’s efforts to bolster parental rights.

This weekend they wrote what they call a “Vote of Confidence” letter in support of Arntzen’s leadership and say it generated well more than 500 signatures of support, including over 20 state Republican lawmakers.

Arntzen’s office issued a statement Tuesday saying she “humbly appreciates the confidence of all those that signed this letter or reached out to me.”

The superintendents representing Montana’s AA school districts say Arntzen’s leadership has led to widespread, unresolved turnover in the state education agency.

Arntzen’s critics also accuse her of inappropriately advocating for partisan policies that undermine local school authority.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.