BUTTE, Mont. - As legislators prepare to meet again to discuss the state of education in Montana, there's one issue at the forefront in the minds of parents, teachers, and, of course, students: communication.

As a pair of competing bills addressing the oversight of charter schools make their way through the Montana Legislature, Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen is taking the opportunity to travel from town to town to discuss hot-button issues with parents and teachers, making a stop in Butte on Wednesday.

One of her priorities ahead of the next legislative session is teacher retention: keeping educators in Montana amid the rising cost of living.

"Right now, 60% of our teachers are from out of state," Arntzen said. "We want Montana teachers to teach our Montana children."

"There has to be housing," Arntzen continued. "That's the hardest impediment [in certain locations], we don't have the place for these teachers that we can invest to come into our community."

Additionally, parents and teachers alike raised concerns about school curriculum, mental health resources and keeping the core of education local.

And with so much of the legal focus currently on those charter school bills, traditional public educators want to make sure that they aren't left behind.

"We have a pretty good coalition of both Democrats and Republicans that support public education and realize how important it is, so there's been some decent stuff that's been passed through this legislature in a bipartisan manner," Butte public schools educator Krystin Lee said. "By and large, both Republicans and Democrats [realize] we all need good public schools."

The state legislature will reconvene from their transmittal break on Thursday with these charter bills and other education matters likely a high priority on the agenda.


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