Montanan Mailbag: The ‘Lost Best Place,’ and special education

Vintage "U.S. Mail City Collection" mail bag at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Maracin Wichary/CC-SA-BY 2.0)
The Daily Montanan doesn’t have a “letters to the editor” page, but we will — as time and interest allow – post some letters we’ve gotten. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, feel free to email: [email protected] Guest views are considered on a case-by-case basis, but those can also be submitted to that address as well.

Ehrlick was spot on

Darrell Ehrlick’s commentary of March 4 evokes a simple response – right on!  To any person who has truly sought the notion of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” they needn’t look beyond the State (literally) of Montana. Just consider John Steinbeck’s interpretation: “I’m in love with Montana. For other States I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

What would Steinbeck say today?

Michael Griffith
Montana City, Montana

Special ed students need more options

I am honored to have worked with Gov. Greg Gianforte to introduce the Students with Special Needs Equal Opportunity Act (House Bill 329) this legislative session.

House Bill 329 gives parents flexibility to support the unique educational needs of their child without increasing state spending. The House overwhelmingly supported the bill this week and it is now headed to the Senate. It is also supported by Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

House Bill 329 allows parents with eligible students under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to access a reimbursement account within the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) for eligible educational expenses. The OPI account will be generated with funds by parents choosing to take the state share of their child’s education funding and moving it from their local school district to the state account. Parents can then use those funds for a variety of public or private education services that fit the needs of their children.

The OPI will ensure that the funds have appropriate oversight and accountability. Examples of eligible expenditures could include textbooks, online materials, tutoring fees, tuition, therapy, assessments, materials, programming, and more.

As the mother of a child with special needs, I understand the struggles parents have faced in the last year trying to ensure that their children are progressing academically without in-person learning. The challenges of learning loss through COVID-19 have been even greater for our state’s at-risk students.

Education has been one of the most impacted sectors by this pandemic. House Bill 329 will provide a boost to students now and into the future. Parents know the needs of their children better than anyone. They should be able to use their child’s state share of education funding to put them in the program that will give them the greatest opportunity to succeed.

Note: Sue Vinton, R-Lockwood, is the Majority Leader of the Montana House of Representatives and Sponsor of HB 329.

Sue Vinton
Lockwood, Montana