Montana taxpayers are paying approximately $11,000 per student annually for them to attend public school. Some districts are significantly higher. State funding requires attendance, consistent with the state’s mandatory attendance law. Local property taxpayers likewise assume that the thousands of dollars they send to their county’s public schools each year will go toward educating all enrolled students — not just those who decide to show up.

That assumption is being proven wrong in at least two Montana communities, where Missoula and Bozeman school officials allowed their high school students to have a day off to participate in a political rally promoting left-wing politics and left-wing solutions to the so-called “climate crisis.” Reading, writing and arithmetic take a back seat to climate politics, with students skipping class to scream, chant, wail and otherwise join their young and naïve voices to an organized movement deriding their parents for inaction, and demanding that “something be done” before the world melts away before our very eyes.

Frankly, this is world-class hogwash, and the best of America’s scientists have been honest and courageous enough to say so. But the voices of reason and real science have been shouted down by the unhinged claims of calamity, and the demands for bigger, stronger government to address a “crisis” that doesn’t exist.

The fact that so many students are drawn in to this ideological fear-mongering is an indictment of the biased curriculum that exists in our local schools. From what I can tell, only one side of the man-made climate change debate is ever presented for students to consider. It is a classic example of indoctrination replacing education, and young people being told that there is only one way to think.

But there is an even more fundamental question that reaches beyond the concerns of political bias masquerading as education. What in the world are public school administrators doing, to excuse students from a day of class work to attend a political rally organized by out-of-town leftist activists — even if their parents had yielded permission? Is this what we believe our tax dollars should pay for — a day off, to agitate for left-wing social and political change?

Pray, what would students be told if they wished to attend a pro-life rally, or a demonstration promoting conservative or Christian values, or calling for a return to the principles of the Constitution? Do you think there is any chance they would be let out of class for events like that? Clearly not. Unfortunately, our public school systems are largely captured by the intolerant politics of the left, that insists the only opinions deserving of consideration are their own.

I for one have grown very tired of this. If our local high schools are willing to allow left-wing pressure groups to pick up their students at the front door, and deliver them into the hands of leftist organizers and protesters, then they need to understand that they have just relinquished the tax support for one day of schooling. If they are going to take the importance of the school day so lightly, then they need to give taxpayers back the money for those left-wing politics days, and quit pretending that those were legitimate school days.

Education is not having students spend their class time with radical activists who are cynically using them as political pawns. Education is not protesting for politically correct causes at a time when students ought to be in the classroom — learning to think for themselves, not follow the crowd.

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Roger Koopman is a former legislator, a current Montana Public Service Commissioner and the president of Montana Conservative Alliance.

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