Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instructions Elsie Arntzen was on Talk Back on Thursday to discuss a number of issues, but primarily the response to numerous questions to her office about Critical Race Theory, and its place in Montana’s Public Schools.

Arntzen said her office asked Attorney General Austin Knudsen to issue an opinion on Critical Race Theory.

Knudsen wrote ‘“Committing racial discrimination in the name of ending racial discrimination is both illogical and illegal. It goes against the exceptional principles on which our nation was founded and has no place in our state,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Montana law does not tolerate schools, other government entities, or employers implementing CRT and antiracist programming in a way that treats individuals differently on the basis of race or that creates a racially hostile environment.”

Arntzen also said the federal government has been plying states with extra funds to include the controversial content.

“So if you teach critical race theory or the 1619 project, you're going to receive some more money,” said Arntzen. “Well, we know with money and those incentives, there are also chains, and also challenges that might come with that. So just another way that you put that carrot out there before the stick follows. So we wanted to be really careful and get on the front end of this. Here in Montana, we are the frontier, so we wanted to make sure that we were protecting our children as much as our teachers when we made this request.”

Arntzen said she was afraid that allowing CRT in the classroom would be confusing to young students.

“I wanted to protect the civil rights as well as that first amendment for our children so that they have the ability to learn in an environment that isn't going to be hazardous to them, that they don't come away thinking that they're bad, that they've done something wrong because of who they are, or who their families are,” she said.

Arntzen said the federal government has provided all the states with millions of dollars that she said has strings attached.

“Secretary of Education (Miguel) Cardona has been vacant in any response back to us,” she said. “We wrote a letter to them in March saying ‘okay, we get it’. Money is not free and Montana is accountable. If you want to give us money, we understand they are strings attached. But we're also accountable to our state legislature. The legislators went ahead and crafted two bills that share with us how the monies can be spent and should be spent.”

One more issue that Arntzen covered on Thursday’s Talk Back was to clear up a misconception of a mask mandate.

“I had a legal opinion that just went out to our county superintendents, to our school board chairs as well as to all of our 400 school superintendents to say, no, that money is not tied to a mask mandate.”

Attorney General’s Opinions carry the weight of law in Montana.


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