New U.S. Senate hopeful, Montana Democratic Candidate Amanda Curtis was in Missoula today, August 28, laying out her plan for education reform (which is printed below, and included in the video above).

The crowd for Curtis included four or five reporters, a "tracker" for a conservative group, and about 20 to 25 supporters and spectators.

During questions after the speech, Curtis said she has an "anywhere, anytime" position on possible debates with Republican competitor Steve Daines (both campaigns will be asked to debate on KGVO radio).

Follow up questions on her previous hesitance to comment on issues like immigration and the situation in Iraq were met with the statement "you have to understand that I'm a high school math teacher and I've been on the campaign trail for eleven days." Curtis said she was travelling Montana to find out what the public thinks about issues. When asked what other topics she planned on covering in the near future, Curtis said "you'll have to wait and see."

After the speech, Curtis was asked a number of other questions, including a few from Montana Public Radio about her familial connections to the Industrial Workers of the World union. Reporter Edward O'Brien quoted the IWW Preamble noting that the phrases "take possession of the means of production" and "abolish the wage system" sounded like "contemporary communism."

Curtis responded to the IWW question in economic terms that showed her solidarity with the working class."There is a clear distinction between millionaire congressman Steve Daines and working class teacher Amanda Curtis," Curtis said. "I stand for working Montanans, I will be the voice of working Montanans everywhere I go, every day of my life, and I'll continue that in the United States Senate." Curtis did not deny connections to IWW or that it had a somewhat "communist" message.

Overall, though hesitant to wander far from the script, Curtis seemed comfortable speaking with the public and handling most questions on education. The highlight of her speech was when she commented about how the UM bells reminded her of trying to talk over the speakers in her classroom.

Of other note, Curtis also mentioned that the campaign had hired a campaign manager.  A set of what will likely be the Curtis for Senate campaign signs were also on display.

Photo Coutesy of Jon King
Photo Coutesy of Jon King


Curtis’ Six Point Plan for Students

Refinance Student Loan Rates: Homeowners, business owners, and even local governments are able to refinance their loans when interest rates are lower but currently there’s no way for students to take advantage of lower interest rates. Curtis would push for legislation that would enable individuals who have outstanding loan debt to refinance at a fixed rate of 4 percent that would benefit thousands of Montana college students and working families across the state.

Strengthen the Pell Grant Program: The Pell Grant program designed to help lowincome students attend college has helped thousands of Montanans. Curtis will fight to strengthen the Pell Grant program by establishing it as an automatic funding program with a cost-of-living automatic adjustment to the maximum grant in order to preserve and expand access to this necessary student program.

Invest in Career and Technical Education Programs: Given increasingly high tuition rates, it is important for students to consider all types of programs that could give the highest possible return on a student’s investment. Montana has some of the best career and technical schools in the country. Curtis will support legislation that invests in career and technical schools, expands and supports apprenticeship programs, and prioritizes career technical exploration programs in middle and high schools.

Empower Students with Financial Counseling: College graduates are defaulting on their student rates at the highest rate in nearly two decades, which has disastrous consequences for students’ future economic opportunities. Curtis will push for legislation that would empower students and provide them with annual counseling under the federal loan program so that they are less likely to end up defaulting on their loans and have a secure economic future.

Assist Student Veterans: Many service members who return home are hampered by high student loan debt. It is unconscionable that those who served our country should have to grapple with burdening student loan debt. Curtis is committed to helping student veterans and promoting legislation that would provide veterans with student loan protections and expand veteran tuition benefits.

Invest in Indian Country: Montana’s Native American reservations deal with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Education is one step toward helping lift these communities out of poverty. Curtis would propose legislation that would forgive student debt for Native American graduates who return to their reservation to work and invest in their communities. Not only would forgiving student loan debt help them move up the economic ladder but would also help invest in Montana’s Indian reservations.

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