Senate Bill 107 was heard this week in Helena during the 2015 Legislative session. Proponents and opponents lined up to discuss the bill merits, fiscal impacts and local control request from representatives of school districts as well as local citizens of Lockwood. SB107, if passed through the Legislature and signed by the Governor, would allow k-8 school districts the opportunity to have the discussion of expanding into a high school district. Quality of education, graduation matters and the fiscal impacts on the losing district were among lengthy testimony this week.
15-20 Lockwood residents provided their insight and experience as well as testimony on how the bill is significant for their school district and community. Senator Taylor Brown, stated at the beginning of the hearing that the bill is the “most significant piece of legislation” brought before the Senate Education Committee yet this session.
Opposition to the legislation was mainly AA high school districts like Missoula, Helena and Billings school districts. The main concern that was expressed by AA school administrators were the loss of advanced classes and fiscal impacts to the school district if the bill goes through.
Lockwood School District Superintendent Tobin Novasio stated, “The children of our community are the future of Lockwood”, as for the concerns that were brought up from Billings School District #2 Superintendent Terry Bouck and school administrators, Novasio stated, “A lot of those things can be mitigated…and we’re asking to have a voice to educate our own children”.
In addressing some other concerns, Navisio stated, “Currently, close to a dozen students from our community drop out of high school every semester, every semester.” He was referring to Lockwood Students that drop out.
Helena School District Superintendent stated that they have met with the East Helena Elementary school district 8 times in special meetings regarding concerns East Helena has with their students that transition to the Helena High School District.
Towards the end of the hearing, Billings School District #2 Superintendent Terry Bouck was asked what steps his district has taken to mitigate the drop-out rate and participation numbers from Lockwood.
In reference to the alarming dropout rate of Lockwood students in the Billings’s schools, Senator Moe asked Billings’s Superintendent Terry Bouck to respond saying, “is it a problem the district has identified and focused on and if so, how?” As Bouck did indicate that they are working on it, he responded that we are “right on it” and that he was reaching out to our outlined school districts including Lockwood in the next week”.
Executive action on the Bill could be taken as early as Friday, January 23, 2015.