Kevin Leatherbarrow: 2020 General Election Q&A
Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.
Kevin Leatherbarrow is the 2020 Libertarian candidate for superintendent of public instruction.
What makes you the best candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction and how do you stand out from your opponent(s)?
First, I am not part of the Establishment. I bring a fresh look to a very broken educational system in Montana. Second, I bring experience from other areas of the country where I have seen educational methods work such as school vouchers and school choice.
What experience do you have in the education system?
- A Master’s in Education and a B.A. English
- 15 years in teaching.
- Special Education teacher and background.
- Educational Services LLC, Business owner.
What are your three top goals to accomplish as Superintendent of Public Instruction and how would you achieve them?
- School Vouchers which, voucher money is sent to the school of the student attends. Parents and caregivers who Homeschool, have students with special needs children, or want school choice should be eligible for the money which, can reach as high as $12,000. Families would be able to use the vouchers for tutoring and other services needed.
- Fiscal Responsibility Montana spent $704 million dollars on education in 2019. Under such spending a Montana student receives about 7 thousand dollars for their public education. Total expenditures climbed near $12,330 per student in current expenditures, which includes salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, and supplies.” The educational achievement per student however has fallen to record lows.
- Accountability. A district or State can spend the most on its students but having no gains made within achievement of its students is theft at best. No accountability leads too extraordinarily little growth in all areas.
The superintendent of public instruction is one of five statewide elected officials that sits on the state Land Board, which manages state trust lands. What are your priorities for managing these lands?
I understand the importance of protecting our public lands from any harm and managing them fiscally. My whole up bring was surround around the outdoors, until it was acquired by building Contractors and Home Developers. I know firsthand what it is like to watch it all go away. I can say with confidence, “I will fight like hell to keep our public lands, and I will never stop advocating to make sure Public Lands grow.” I also advocate for the release of our Federally owned lands.
What should the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s role be in guiding policies and advice for K-12 schools during the coronavirus pandemic?
The Superintendent of Public Instruction should be
- A leader within the new innovative ways schools and education is going to look like i.e. have a vouchers system, online learning.
- Should be very transparent. Parents need to know the truth when it comes to their student’s education and safety.
Do you agree with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down part of a Montana tax credit program that excluded private religious schools? Why or why not?
I feel the ruling made by The Supreme Court on Espinoza Vs Montana was justified in the manner, it seems to show based on the variance of the Blaine Amendment that was placed in the Montana Constitution first in 1889 and kept during the rewrite of the Montana Constitution in1972, which the court has recognized, placed unconstitutionally. The Supreme Court, I feel, has recognized that the amendment which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate which, never received the level of representation to become law. In further review, the Montana Constitution says, (1) “It is the goal of the people to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person. Equality of educational opportunity is guaranteed to each person of the state.” Based off the reading, I feel the court ruled correctly when it based some of its merit on the fact discrimination was found and that the two measures show a clear conflict with each other. In short, yes, I support a voucher system that supports school choice for all students and parents no matter what their beliefs are or are not.
What other issues are important to your campaign? (300 word limit)
Special Ed and Our Native kids are getting crushed. My focus on these issues will be heavy.
Special Needs children. The state of Montana needs to do a much better job dealing with the fact it has let these children and the families down.
- We need to come up with a better way of meeting IDEA and ESSA protocols and compliance laws, so students get what they need.
- We need to restructure the way training is being implemented.
- We need better support for families.
- We need much better support for students, inside the classroom and out in the time of Covid19.
- We will need parent and caregiver support for Special Needs children who cannot attend schooling. i.e., online learning training for families as well as students.
We need to do a better job of reaching out to the Native schools while honoring their Sovereignty. I experience on Reservation here in Montana and other States. I was honored to work and teach in such a beautiful place and with some amazing people.