The Montana World Affairs Council held a ‘Connect Montana’ meeting via ZOOM with Montana’s Senior Senator Jon Tester on Thursday.

Tester addressed the problem of rural Montana students having access to the same opportunities to learn as do students in more populated counties.

“Frontier areas across our state already struggle to retain teachers in their schools,” began Tester. “They have little or no access to broadband preventing them from receiving the same educational opportunities as kids in some of our larger cities and towns in Montana.  So, as we work to teach more Montana kids about world affairs, it is critical that we’re not leaving our rural kids behind, because everybody deserves an opportunity to learn.”

Regarding the subject of the upcoming school year, Tester, a former teacher, related his concerns about returning to the traditional classroom model.

“As a former teacher, I would be worried especially if I were still teaching now that I’m in my 60’s, that I would be very worried about stepping into a classroom with from 15 to 30 kids, especially as an elementary teacher where those kids tend to be right on you. I think that school boards have to make some allowances for that and some those allowances might include tele-education, if they have the broadband to able to support it.”

Tester thought out loud about some innovative ways to provide a good education in the new COVID 19 world.

“I think there are ways to do it,” he said. “Running double shifts or separating classrooms. I think Montana is tough because you can’t have outdoor classrooms all the time, but you could in the fall and spring. Maybe they could use church basements for example for classrooms, so that you could split up the density of the student population.”

Tester also shared a conversation he had with Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf specifically about the unrest in Portland, Oregon.

“I had a conversation last night with Secretary Wolf, who’s the head of DHS,” he said. “I don’t need to tell you guys what’s going on in Portland. He gave me a whole different story than what I’m seeing on the news. I ended that conversation by saying ‘the bottom line is this, Secretary; what you’re doing in Portland isn’t working. The violence is getting worse, it’s not getting better, so figure out a way to land the damn airplane, because if it keeps going the way it is, it’s going to get out of control really fast. The veneer of civilization is very thin, and we should keep that in mind.”

The World Affairs Council’s 'Connect Montana’ conversations have already included Congressman Greg Gianforte, and now Senator Jon Tester, and a conversation with Senator Steve Daines is being planned.