New school year brings new round of federal grant funding

Three cheers for reading and writing!

Juneau and Tester Announce Extension

of $4.9 Million Striving Readers Grant

Forty-Two Schools and Pre-Kindergarten Centers

Able to Continue Literacy Efforts

Helena, MT – Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and U. S. Senator Jon Tester announced 42 Montana schools and pre-kindergarten centers will continue to receive federal grant funding for the next two school years to advance literacy skills, reading and writing for students from early childhood through grade 12. Montana will receive $4.9 million for the 2014-2015 school year. In 2012, the competitive grant was awarded to only six states. To date, more than 10,000 students and 850 teachers and staff members have benefited from the Striving Readers grant.

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2 Montana youth meet with 2 Montana senators – in the U.S. Senate

Congratulations are in order for Helena’s Rachel Skaar and Polson’s Sharidan Russell, two teens who were chosen – first by their teachers and principals, then by the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction – to act as student-representatives in the U.S. Senate Youth Program.

This week they met with Montana’s two senators, Jon Tester and John Walsh.

More on the meeting and the program here:

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Follow through on that threat to send your teen to military school

Montana’s two senators and congressman may not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but there’s one thing they can all agree on:

Sending teenagers to military school.

Just kidding! Sort of.

But seriously:

Tester, Walsh, and Daines to host Academy & ROTC Days

in Missoula, Billings and Great Falls

(U.S. CONGRESS) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, along with Representative Steve Daines, are each hosting an informational meeting for Montana high school students interested in applying to military service academies and participating in ROTC programs.


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Tester talks education in Washington with Montana school leaders

Yesterday Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester met with elementary school leaders from Montana in Washington, D.C.

The occasion was the Senate’s consideration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is due for reauthorization. It was last reauthorized in 2002, and allocates federal fund for primary and secondary public education.

At the meeting Tester, himself a former elementary school teacher, laid out his support for the act and his intention to vote for reauthorization.

“Making smart investments in early learning is the best way to prepare our children for future success,” Tester said in a prepared statement. “Giving kids an early boost will pay big dividends down the road.  By focusing on early childhood education and improving school readiness, we are strengthening the future our state and our nation.”

According to Tester’s office:

Tester recently co-sponsored The Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which expands young Montanans’ access to early childhood education.  The bill increases investments in initiatives that provide high-quality pre-school to low- and moderate-income families.

Joining Tester in his Washington, D.C. office were Kirk Miller (Helena), Executive Director of School Administrators of Montana, Matthew Lewis (Lewistown), Principal of Highland Park & Garfield Elementary Schools and President of the Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals (MAEMSP), Dean Jardee (Vaughn), Principal of Vaughn Schools and 1st VP, David Wick (Columbia Falls), Principal of Columbia Falls Junior High, and Carole McKittrick (Great Falls), Principal of Mountain View Elementary School and Federal Relations Coordinator.

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Two Missoula students get senator’s nomination to military academies

When a youngster from Montana wants to attend a prestigious military academy, it usually requires a nomination from a member of Congress. Just a couple of days ago, Tester offered his nominations to not one but two students from Missoula.

Congratulations are in order for Christian Kiemele and Kyle Thompson for earning this important first step on the very special path they’ve chosen.

Read on for the full announcement from Tester’s office:

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Preschool bill gets backing from Montana senator

The Strong Start for America’s Children Act sure has a likable title. It’s an early childhood education bill that would fund preschool initiatives for lower- and moderate-income families.

And today it gained the official support of Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who signed on as a co-sponsor.

Tester, a Democrat, says he supports the legislation because it will increase access to “high-quality” preschool in Montana. Generally, it aims to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers. Specifically, it would also support the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.

In today’s announcement, Tester explains that “Early learning is the best investment we can make to prepare our children for future success. Giving kids an early boost will pay big dividends down the road for Montana.  By focusing on early childhood education and improving school readiness, we are investing in Montana’s future.”

Here’s the rest of the press release from Tester’s office:

Studies show that high-quality pre-school leads to a wide range of short- and long-term benefits, including better educational outcomes, stronger job earnings, and lower levels of crime and delinquency.

Tester recently met with a number of Montana law enforcement officers to discuss the positive results early childhood education programs have for at-risk families and children, particularly for reducing crime and increasing school preparedness.

Tester’s The Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which was introduced by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, is supported by over fifty national early childhood education, family and community organizations.

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Montana sheriffs sit down with senators for discussion of importance of early childhood education

Got a press release from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s office today announcing that he and fellow Democratic Sen. Max Baucus had a sit-down with a group of Montana sheriffs and others this week.

The topic of discussion: The importance of early childhood education.

What about it? Tester says he supports it, and apparently, the folks he met with do too. They include Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards and State Director of America’s Edge, Dave Curry. America’s Edge, according to the press release, “is a membership organization with an office in Butte that works to strengthen businesses and the economy by investing in children at an early age.”

Here’s the rest of the release for your perusing pleasure:

“The key to a good economy is good education, making early education an investment in our future,” said Tester, a former teacher.  “Through the Home Visiting Program we’ve seen improved school readiness and reductions in crime.  Investing in childhood education pays short- and long-term benefits for our state.”

Home Visiting provides grants to state agencies and organizations, including the Montana Department of Health and Human Services and tribal organizations.  The State of Montana recently won a $5.7 million grant.

Tester also spoke about the need to fully fund Head Start and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.  The automatic budget cuts, knows as the sequester, have hurt early childhood education efforts like Head Start, which received a five percent budget cut in 2013.

Tester, a member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, will continue to push to repeal the cuts and ensure full funding for Head Start and grants for early education.

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Certain politicians get thanks from moms for Mother’s Day

A group of about 20 moms and their kids – a stroller brigade – strolled along the street between Missoula’s Public Library and Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus’ Missoula offices earlier today.

Stroller brigadeHere’s why: They were showing their support for strong federal clean air protections, and wanted to thank the senators for their support of stronger Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The full news release on the event is available below.

But as they say: Wait, there’s more!

Montana Women Vote is also encouraging folks to thank their favorite state politicians now that the 2011 legislative session has come to a close.

“As this challenging Montana legislative session has come to an end, we can all be grateful to the brave and tireless legislators who stood and advocated for issues important to women and families,” says the notice sent out by Montana Women Vote.

The note includes a link to a Mother’s Day card you can print out, write on and send to an elected official of your choice. It reads, “Thank you from all the mothers, fathers, children and grandchildren for your hard work for the future of Montana. Your mama would be proud.”

The folks at Montana Women Vote, thorough people that they are, also include handy links to a complete list of Montana legislator addresses, and a list of other statewide elected officials’ addresses.

If one of your favorite state legislators happens to be Missoula Democrat Carol Williams, the first female Senate Majority Leader in Montana history, then you will be delighted with this coming Sunday’s guest column. It’s also about certain congressional delegates and the Clean Air Act.

But, dear readers, I won’t make you wait to read the opinion piece by Williams, a mother of three and grandmother of three. Here’s a special sneak peek for your reading pleasure, following the news release about the stroller brigade.

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Montana teachers talk rural education with U.S. Secretary

Yesterday U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., held a meeting with the Secretary of Education and a group of teachers from Montana. The topic: rural education.

The meeting was held in advance of the expected arguments in Congress concerning No Child Left Behind. The law, passed in 2001, is expected to undergo some revisions within the next few years.

Something interesting of note: Tester used to teach elementary school. His current occupation as a farmer in Big Sandy is often brought up, but you seldom hear about his credentials as a former educator and school board member.

Anyway, he was there when Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with Montana education officials to talk about the challenges facing educators in rural areas.

Tester reportedly used the meeting to reiterate his criticisms of No Child Left Behind, calling it a “flawed one size fits all” approach.

“Today, Montanans got to speak directly to the country’s leader on education, and tell him how to make education policy work for schools from Scobey to Bozeman – not just for schools in Chicago or Detroit,” Tester said in a prepared statement. “Moving forward, I’m going to make sure Montanans have a seat at the table as we decide how to reform education, and to make sure our kids are getting the tools they need to keep creating jobs and business in Montana.”

Tester has helped Duncan get acquainted with Montana teachers before. In 2009, he took Duncan on a tour of Montana schools.

Here are the names of the Montanans who attended Tuesday morning’s meeting: Rhonda McCarty from Valley View Elementary School in Great Falls, Kirk Miller from Bozeman High School, George Rider from Scobey High School, Montana School Administrators Executive Director Darrell Rud, Diane Fladmo with the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers, Crow Tribe Cabinet Head for Education Janine Pease and Crow Tribe Adult Vocation Education Coordinator Newton Old Crow Jr.

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How to get your kid to eat vegetables

For some reason, moms and food are inextricably linked. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that mothers are the first food source for their babies, or that women are primarily the ones who prepare and serve meals in many cultures. Or is it just that we remember our moms as the only people on the planet who care if we have just … one … more … bite … of … peas?

While I think children are born with a palate all their own, there’s no doubt in my mind that moms also have a lot of influence over their dietary choices. So while I’m lucky that Willow likes vegetables – in fact, she’ll pick carrots for a snack any day – I have to credit much of this to the fact that she’s grown up surrounded by small gardens. The child wouldn’t touch a pea until we let her roam my aunt’s garden in Frenchtown, where she could snap them right off the vine.

Our own little backyard garden is now in its second year, and Willow loves to “help” me weed. She’s taken a great interest in the different plants, and at this point, anything that comes out of that garden – be it radishes, beans or tons of zucchini – she’s guaranteed to at least try.

And I’ll just bet it’s the same with all the kids whose parents are starting or maintaining their own gardens. Fortunately, we have a helpful new resource in the form of 1,000 New Gardens Missoula. 4 & 20 blackbirds has more on the story here.

I also noted the news today that Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s mother, Helen Tester, has died at the age of 89. Tester, in addition to being one of Montana’s two delegates in the Senate, runs an organic farm up north, in Big Sandy. And so it only seems appropriate to share my sincere condolences to this family of Montana farmers.

Finally, I want to highlight the sweet Missoulian story about 103-year-old Elizabeth Olson, Missoula’s “grandma to all,” in which it’s apparent this sweet lady has a real sweet tooth. Tonight, after my family gleans whatever’s ripe from the garden and builds our dinner around it, we’ll be making peanut butter cookies in her honor.

What’s a well-rounded dinner, after all, without dessert?

– Tyler Christensen

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