GREAT FALLS - Great Falls Public Schools has been facing budget cuts over the past few years, partially due to what they say is a lack of support for education-based taxes.
But what were some of the impacts of those budget cuts in the Electric City? One group reached out to the community to share what they found.
The cuts have negatively impacted many different aspects of schools across the city, including Great Falls High, according to Kids’ Education Yes, or KEYS. Some range from bigger class sizes, to the removal of entire programs. But the organization said many in the community weren’t really aware of how big those impacts were.
A community survey in February found that over 90% of the community supported education, but that many of them weren't aware of GFPS’ funding situation.
"I feel like it's an engagement issue. People assume that if they don't hear or know anything or its right not up in their face, then it's not a problem," said Elizabeth Hill, the parent of student attending one of GFPS’ schools.
KEYS wants to change that. One of their steps? Inviting members of the public to share their views and experiences with education.
"We're looking to tell their stories, to share the real stories of their successes as well as the challenges that are arising, especially for our teachers and students," said KEY Chair Jamie Marshall.
One challenge for GFPS is teacher retention. Over 102 teaching positions were cut in the past decade due to a lack of funding, and some parents have concerns about how that'll impact their kids and other students.
"When you lose over a hundred teachers in a ten year period, you know each of those teachers is a contact point for children to be a mentor and somebody who connects with students,” said Hill. “And when you lose those connections, you lose children."
Through community outreach and public events like Wednesday’s luncheon, KEYS hopes to bring attention to those kinds of effects while rallying support for education spending through grassroots movements.
"When you have people spread throughout the community, you get to tell your neighbours and your friends. And it's not a top down approach," said Hill.
Aside from Wednesday’s event, KEYS doesn't have a set plan for future rallies, but they invite everyone in the community to get involved in supporting local education. If you’d like to check out the organization, you can do so at their official KEYS website.