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Melissa Romano: 2020 General Election Q&A

Melissa Romano is the 2020 Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction.
Melissa Romano is the 2020 Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction.

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.

Melissa Romano is the 2020 Democratic 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)?

Teaching is my life's work and my passion, and we need a leader at the Office of Public Instruction who can bring educational excellence and expertise to the table. I have been a public school teacher for 16 years, I am a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s “Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching,” and I am Montana’s 2018 Teacher of the Year award.

I am the best candidate for state superintendent because I believe in our public schools and Montanans can trust I will advocate for our teachers and students. Unlike my opponent who has spent her political career trying to defund public education and send tax payer dollars to private and for profit schools, I will be a teacher for all Montanans because I believe every child deserves access to a quality education.

What experience do you have in the education system?

I have been a public school teacher in Helena for 16 years and I have received various accolades throughout my career as a teacher leader. I have spent my professional career mentoring teachers across Montana and the nation, and facilitating and creating professional development groups. These experiences have helped me become a collaborative leader and problem solver inside and outside of the classroom and will serve me well as Montana’s next state superintendent.

What are your three top goals to accomplish as Superintendent of Public Instruction and how would you achieve them?

On day one, I am going to get to work on enacting a public preschool option to support working families, increasing access to mental health support in our schools for both educators and students, and tackling our teacher shortage crisis. While these are all critical issues that must be addressed, first and foremost, we need to focus on getting our school communities through this health crisis. Our schools need more support now than they ever have before, and we cannot start addressing these other challenges until we ensure our educators, administrators and students are safe and healthy, that they have the support they need to safely deliver services, and that we have a plan to help students who will need more attention as a result of this crisis.

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?

As a member of the Land Board, I will work with all stakeholders to ensure I am making reasonable and responsible decisions. We must ensure our public lands remain in public hands for generations to come, while maximizing revenue for our schools.

What should the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s role be in guiding policies and advice for K-12 schools during the coronavirus pandemic?

The state superintendent should be doing everything they can to support the work our local districts are doing right now. Our district leaders know what their communities need and it is up to the superintendent to be a strong advocate for them. Unfortunately, our current state superintendent has been missing in action. She was caught overruling local decision making and has been called out for diverting precious relief aid away from public schools to for profit schools. We need a leader who will show up and advocate for our schools and their needs.

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?

Absolutely not. Public funds should go to public schools that educate all students. When we start siphoning off tax payer dollars to private and for profit schools, we are choosing which children are worthy of a quality education and that is not a Montana value. Our state constitution guarantees every child access to a quality public education, and unlike my opponent, who voted for the bill central to this court case, I will stand by our constitution and do everything I can to protect that promise to our children.

What other issues are important to your campaign? (300 word limit)

Montanans deserve a leader at the Office of Public Instruction who will wake up every day and advocate for our students and teachers. I’m running to be your next State Superintendent because it is time to restore competent and focused leadership at the Office of Public Instruction. Now more than ever, we need a leader who shows up every day to promote and protect high-quality public education, a leader who is an advocate for all kids, from our four year olds, to our 21 year olds, especially at the legislature when it comes to funding our public schools, and Montanans need and deserve a leader who understands the day to day challenges our school communities face.

My opponent has shown time and time again that she does not have the best interests of our public schools at heart. Not only has her candidacy for state superintendent been condemned by the Montana Federation of Public Employees, which represents the majority of employees who work in our public schools, but only one working public school teacher has donated to her reelection campaign. This is not who we want overseeing our public schools.

As your next State Superintendent, I will wake up each and every day and work to ensure that every student, regardless of where they live or how much their parents make, will be given the resources they need to learn. I will fight to fund programs for our earliest learners because quality public pre-school experiences set our children up for success in the future. And I will fight against all unfair, discriminatory schemes like public funding for private and religious schools that drain vital taxpayer dollars away from the children who need it most.

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