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Rep. Llew Jones

Montana’s Constitution provides very specific direction on individualizing education: 

Article X, Section 1: It is the goal of the people to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person. 

As an education advocate, I take every opportunity to become well informed on education.  I recently spent a week at the 2019 Aurora Institute Symposium on Education Innovation listening to some of the nation’s most visionary teachers, administrators, and education specialist share their best educational practices for the 21st century.  

Montana’s Public Education System is charged with providing the educational foundation for Montana youth to become successful citizens.  The classroom design and lessons are aligned to fit the current socioeconomic needs of the local communities.  

For much of the 20th century, neat strictly structured classrooms successfully educated workers to perform well in orderly business cubicles. Mechanical lessons in school shops on small engines translated well into fixing pre-computer tractors and vehicles.  

I could perform magic on my 1972 International Scout with a crescent wrench, pliers, screwdriver, and chunk of bailing wire.  

Today orderly business cubicles are gone, replaced with the chaotic group work environments made famous by Google and Amazon.   Robots do most of the assembly line welding, and the primary tool of the technician is the laptop. Virtual reality is reality, artificial intelligence looms on the horizon, precision agriculture requires superb computer skills, and Amazon is replacing Sears and Walmart.

Today’s successful student profile is markedly different from yesterdays. How does education evolve to best prepare students today?  This is the ongoing challenge facing our schools. I have spent much of my legislative career removing regulations that prevented schools from changing to meet the needs of their local communities.  Today school evolution is limited primarily by local vision and courage. 

Stories of Montana’s education visionaries inspire us.  MSU’s dramatic 50 percent gain in the number of students graduating on time with less debt would have been impossible if not for MSU President Waded Cruzado challenging the status quo.   

K-12 successes, such as Conrad Schools’ first in the nation partnership with John Deere University where high school students earn both high school credit and industry certification took courage to develop. This model now serves as a template that is spreading across the nation.   

Innovative successes, such as in Libby, lift students out of poverty by using carefully designed student internships with local businesses to provide not only work skills, but more importantly, a vision of what a successful adult looks like.  

Our Public Schools can evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century, but we must support them as they work through the messiness of evolution.  To provide encouragement, last session I championed efforts to pass legislation that offers fiscal incentives and training support for school that chose to move towards a more personalized 21st century education program.  The first seven pilot schools will be announced soon. I can hardly wait to see what local education innovation this will foster.  

Our children’s educational opportunities will define both their and our future.  Kudos to all the parents, teachers, school board trustees, and school administrators that commit themselves to educating children.   

Take the time to thank an educator today. 

Thank you for allowing me to be your Representative.

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