Montana School Boards Association votes to leave national association

The Montana School Boards Association, of which Great Falls Public Schools is a member, is terminating its membership in the National School Boards Association.

The move was unanimously approved during the MTSBA board meeting on Nov. 1.

The board opted to forgo seeking a refund for their national dues paid in July and “to immediately engage in collaborative efforts with other state associations in the creation of a new national organization to meet the federal advocacy and related needs of its member school boards in a manner that values community ownership through local school board governance and engagement of students, families and other community stakeholders,” according to the MTSBA.

The board’s decision came after it notified the national association over the summer of its frustration with the organization and that “it was running out of time to correct its course and rebuild a culture of trust and transparency that was necessary not just for its success but for its survival,” according to MTSBA.

Among the issues cited by the Montana association is a September 2021 letter to the Biden Administration, asking for federal assistance to stop threats of violence against public school children, educators, district officials and school board members.

In that letter, NTSBA officials wrote that, “as the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reporter, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue.”

In the letter, national officials ask that the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service be tasked with focussing on threats against school districts, educators and officials.

In response, the U.S. Attorney General directed the FBI to work with U.S. Attorneys in each state to coordinate with local, state, tribal and territorial officials to address threats to schools.

That letter spurred a letter from the U.S. Attorney in Montana offering support to local law enforcement in Montana in responding to threats against schools, educators and officials.

In mid-October, Great Falls Police Chief Jeff Newton, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and County Attorney Josh Racki signed a letter in response saying, in effect, thanks but no thanks.

As a result of the letter, several other state school board associations have terminated their membership with the national association, to include Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, as more are considering similar moves.

According to the MTSBA, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have distanced themselves from NSBA’s letter as of Nov. 1.

“Despite near-unanimous calls for NSBA to mitigate the damage it created through a retraction and public apology, it took NSBA until Oct. 22 to do so, and only after NSBA proceeded as though it had not done anything wrong. Even after issuing an apology, there appeared to be no accountability for the two primary leaders involved. Both the interim executive director and the NSBA President appear to have continued in their roles, without consequence from their actions,” according to MTSBA. “NSBA’s missteps have damaged the interests of the students served in public
schools governed by elected school boards that we serve. The new narrative that NSBA’s mistakes have allowed to be created through their ill-conceived actions is of elected school boards as the enemies of parental rights, with school board governance now inserted into a partisan divide.”

The Montana School Boards Association has been a member of the national association since 1950 but has had concerns with the leadership and direction of the national group for about the last decade, according to MTSBA.