GREAT FALLS- Right now, Great Falls education advocates and community members are looking at why public education is so important to your child and our entire community.
Kids' Education Yes (KEY) is an organization supporting public education. They say after seeing 102 teachers get cut in the last 10 years due to school levies not passing, the organization started looking into how these cuts were impacting the community.
KEY says over the last 10 years, GFPS has passed only two levies in support of things like student programs, staffing, and school materials. Although they passed a $98.8 million bond in 2016, that money is going toward construction for buildings that were in a terrible condition after 50 years without updates. A facilities bond and a school levy are two separate things, and KEY explained bond elections are rare. KEY says they believe levy elections should occur regularly because 80 percent of Great Falls Public School's budget comes through federal and state dollars but 20 percent comes through local funding.
"I started asking more questions and seeking to better understand what's really going on and what are the needs in our community. And the more I started to understand, they've been very open,” said Jamie Marshall, the Chair, Kids' Education Yes.
By asking questions through a community survey, KEY was able to learn how the cuts have impacted our community. After looking over the survey, KEY says they realized they hadn't done a good job showing how cuts in the school's budget have impacted students, teachers, and businesses.
KEY says an example of the info includes the results showed the vast majority of our community is pro-education and people were unaware that Great Falls Public School’s were underfunded.
"There's a misunderstanding of how much we have had to cut over the last 10 years. Our schools have tightened the belts, and have really continued to tighten that budget,” said Marshall.
Come this afternoon in Great Falls at The History Museum, 422 2nd St. S. you can learn more about what KEY has found from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and hear speakers sharing different perspectives on the impacts of the schools budget cuts.
According to a press release from GFPS, they also released these additional details:
"Mayor Bob Kelly will give opening remarks, with Mary Moe giving an update on the progress of KEY. Recent graduate Zach Schermele will speak along with Mike Waldenberg to represent the business community. Retired teacher, Kathy Jackson, and Ken Small will share thoughts on opportunities to leave a legacy in our public schools along with a GFPS parent, Elizabeth Hill."