GUEST POST: Vocabulary Lesson

Mary Moe

by Mary Sheehy Moe

Sen. Moe represents Senate District 12 in Great Falls. She can be reached at 

“Disingenuous.” When Elsie Arntzen used that word in her televised debate with Melissa Romano last summer, I had to wonder whether it still means what it used to. Romano had been taking Elsie to task for supporting bills that dedicate public dollars to private schools, making the case that a Superintendent of Public Instruction ought to be a solid supporter of – well, public instruction.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of public schools,” Elsie protested. “To make that decision that I’m not is disingenuous.”

Huh? I double-checked my dictionary: “dis·in·gen·u·ous (adj.) – not being candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.”

The meaning hadn’t changed. And the only person being disingenuous in that exchange was Elsie Arntzen. She told Project Vote Smart in 2012 that she supported state funding for private charter schools, as well as vouchers for parents who send their children to private schools. As a legislator, time and time again she supported bills to do just that. Yet in the debate – and throughout the campaign – she did everything she could to obscure her position. Disingenuous.

It isn’t just her ALEC-imported school choice agenda that Elsie enshrouds in fog. This week, she announced her senior staff appointments. Reminding us that her campaign slogan was “Putting Students First,” she presented what she called “a team of diverse talents and geographic backgrounds to ensure that OPI is responsive to the needs of students all around our state.”

Puh-leez.  Of the nine senior-level appointments, six are from Billings. So much for geographic diversity. As for their expertise, only one has ever worked in education – and his is the only interim appointment!  Another one may have worked with children in the practice of family law, but since he just got his J.D. last year, whatever interaction with kids he’s had hasn’t been very sustained. He’ll be Elsie’s Chief Legal Counsel. The rest of the appointees have no apparent professional experience with putting children first, second, or anywhere.

One is a Billings lawyer whose brief practice has included consulting for extraction industries. An oil-and-gas man at OPI? Elsie says he’ll be invaluable to her on the land board. You have to wonder what her land board agenda really is when she’s the first superintendent ever to dedicate a full-time position to it. But don’t ask, or the fog will roll in.

Apart from another Billings hiree from the hospitality industry, the common bond the rest of the appointees share is being paid to politic.

Her Senior Policy Advisor is a one-time policeman whose colleagues nicknamed him “Thumper” for reasons that have nothing to do with Bambi. His money career, though, has been as a congressional staffer — for Rehberg, then Daines, then Zinke. How does any of that qualify him to be Elsie’s foremost advisor on education? It doesn’t. At best, Elsie could pass him off as Federal Policy Advisor, but no. She gave that job to a guy whose only post-graduation job has been – you guessed it –staffing Steve Daines.

Director of Policy and Planning? A Billings guy who’s been a Republican congressional staffer and field director. Senior Office Administrator? A Billings gal who’s working for Ryan Zinke.

OK, OK: With Zinke leaving and Elsie’s campaign a success, Republican insiders expect the patronage of soft landings and new launchpads. That’s nothing new. The problem is that Elsie promised at every campaign stop “to get the politics out of OPI.”  Yet her “diverse” team of senior staff reads like a roll call of Billings Republicans with no background whatsoever in education.

And the kicker? Elsie didn’t send her press release on her top “education” appointments to the press. She didn’t even send it to the OPI staff she’ll direct. She sent it to Montana politicians.

What do you call that? Disingenuous, for starters.



21 Comments on "GUEST POST: Vocabulary Lesson"

  1. Right on, Mary! Public education is in for a rough ride the next four years! With DeVos in Washington and Arntzen in Helena, let’s hope that our voices are heard! Our public schools need a voice for reason and support instead of the chopping block.

  2. No need to ask about her Lands Board agenda. It’s drill, baby, drill; dig, brother, dig; saw, sister, saw; graze, mama, graze; and sell, daddy, sell.

  3. I found her disingenuous with the Taxi COmpanies argument.With SB396 last year. Telling us she was there to help us and voting in Uber anyway. After the conversations we had with her, and then not helping us at all regarding the interim Study this last November….. I am guessing Montanans need to make sure she writes down and signs what she says she will do.

    Her word proved to be nothing to us!

  4. Patronage aside, this has all the appearance of a career politician surrounding herself with party insiders who can help her move up to the next level in the future.

  5. MCA 20-3-103
    The superindendent of public instruction shall appoint

    (b) a professional staff consisting of individuals prepared in agriculture education, business and marketing education, family and consumer sciences education, and industrial technology education;

    20-3-104 appointed discretionary staff also shall be experienced educators.

    • If her appointments do not comply with code then why can’t she be taken to task? In civil court not just court of public opinion because we all know public opinion has been perverted by fake news and paid commentors. If I have learned anything this past year it is the fact that an organized effort backed by extreme right wing PACs have lied to convince voters that their economic and social experience has deteriated under the Obama administration when facts prove the polar opposite. The republicans have lowered the bar so low that cheaters like Elsie will look like a hero to the manipulated public and our children are paying the price. There are no real republicans left in this country it’s the invasion of the morals snatchers.

    • The law has never been an obstacle to the GOP.

  6. Impeach for not following the state laws!

    • That is what we need to do call all of them out on every infraction large or small and we have to start yesterday filing suits. Do you think a dem superintendent would have gotten away with those appointments? There is no way in hell they would have let that slide. My husband says if you tie them up in court nothing will get done – as if that’s a bad thing- we are not sacrificing progress if we obstruct! We are stopping the unconstitutional take over of our public schools by a bunch of crazy people who want to get their kids religious education paid for by the public and ruin the public education system. The Jennifer Fielders of the world have hgijacked our country and what they are attempting is unconstitutional. Why are we just lettiung them do this! They are bat shit crazy and think we are just going to sit back and let it happen and they just might be right. Wtf!!!!

  7. what is sad is I’m too old for much of the next 4 years to hurt me and I don’t have that many left beyond that-it’s the under-40’s crowd due to be hurt the worst and yet they either don’t show up to vote or when they bother they vote for crooks. Moving out of the country again is looking better every week…

  8. It appears she’s in clear violation of the law. Who will bring the lawsuit to enforce it?

  9. Today Randy Vogel declines to be senior policy advisor to Ellie Arntzen.
    She accepts, then again another whopper. Claims she will be depoliticizing the Office of Public Instruction.
    No. No. From what I can tell of her candidate appointees they are an attempt at politicizing the Office of Public Instruction.
    Only her deputy appointee Tim Tharp is an experienced educator.
    imo ONLY her staff appointees will accept the politicized claim,
    that there is only enough money for inflation assisted raises for Teachers. Except Special Education Teachers.
    And that’s the end of the story for 2/3 of Voters who Voted for Stapleton. Rosendale. Arntzen.
    Remember over 40% of Voters Voted for Juras.
    What changes does your District want?
    And not want!
    The public issue is still local control.

    • Bob, I am still hyperventilated over the fact that Juras won 40 percent of vote that is the scariest information I have known since 9\11.

  10. Nice article. So true. Only a few dangling participles.

  11. The progressive education agenda over the past 60 years have failed in educating our most important asset – the children of our country. Socially inept consciousness has replaced the real opportunity for our children to excel in the preparation to being a contributing member of this great country. A new day of what governments real roll should be in our private lives has dawned and let those that have our best interest at heart succeed. Those that have interfered in the past, please get out of the way.

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