Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

State lawmakers send letter rebuking OPI Superintendent Elsie Arntzen

Montana Capitol.
Shaylee Ragar
Montana Capitol.

A committee of state lawmakers has voted to rebuke Montana's superintendent of public schools.

Members of the Education Interim Budget Committee voted 6 to 2 to send a letter to Superintendent Elsie Arntzen expressing their frustration with what they say is her office’s inability to implement laws passed during the last legislative session.

Those measures deal with policies about enforcing requirements to teach Native American culture and history, early literacy programs and public charter schools.

Before the vote to send the letter of rebuke, Committee Chair David Bedey, a Republican from Hamilton, said “leadership matters”.

“And an organization depends upon its leadership and at the end of the day the buck stops at the end of the org chart. And for that reason I believe this committee should communicate to the Superintendent of Instruction the view that she has failed to meet her constitutional obligation,” Bedey said.

The committee’s letter said Artzen’s interpretations of several education bills consistently run counter to the intent of bill sponsors and that she hasn’t provided clear and timely guidance to school districts.

Committee members also expressed frustration that Arntzen declined to appear before the committee twice this week, choosing instead to send her deputy and Chief Legal Counsel Rob Stutz. 

In a statement read to the committee and posted to the social media website X, Artnzen wrote:

“This is a political persecution. I am being attacked because I am a conservative. I stood up for limited bureaucracy, fought the radical transgender agenda, opposed woke-ism, promoted good government, and delivered results for our children, parents, and schools.”

The statement said the agency will follow the law.

Three Republicans and three Democrats on the committee voted to admonish Arntzen. Two Republicans voted against, saying the concerns are legitimate, but would be more appropriately handled in court.

Arntzen is term-limited and has announced a bid to run for Montana’s eastern congressional district.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
(406) 243-4065
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information