In a stunning disclosure, the Superintendent of Public Instruction revealed that Governor Steve Bullock has been freezing her out of discussions on COVID-19 recovery. The Office of Public Instruction oversees the state’s K-12 educational system. Arntzen, the State Superintendent of OPI who was elected to office in 2016, is also a member of the land board, the library commission, and is an ex officio member of the Board of Regents for the state’s universities and the Board of Education.
This isn’t the first time Governor Bullock has refused to work with females colleagues, as his own Lt. Governor, Angela McLean, resigned after she was repeatedly ‘frozen out’ by the governor (similar to how Arntzen describes in the Flathead Beacon). Like Arntzen, McLean was also an educator, a member of the Board of Regents, and a member of the Board of Education. McLean had expressed in emails that Bullock showed contempt for her as a woman and implied he was behaving in a sexist fashion, something reported on in the national press.
The Montana governor has a long, torrid past of mistreating women. His Green Party candidate, Wendie Frederickson, highlighted his past in a courageous op-ed several weeks ago, saying she would not be ‘just another woman bullied by Steve Bullock.’ Bullock helped to dismiss accusations of sexual harassment by his senior advisor before being forced to address it by the media, flew around his alleged mistress on the state dime, and most recently had to fire a spokesman for telling rape victims that they should “enjoy it.” It will not help the governor’s reelection odds to be characterized as mistreating yet another woman in state government.
Arntzen writes, “On March 3, the governor created Montana’s Coronavirus Task Force, leaving out a significant sector impacted by COVID-19: the education community. Under pressure, the governor’s staff allowed the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to participate.”
The State Superintendent went on to explain that she was then told by the governor’s staff that the task force would no longer be meeting and her invitations to attend then promptly ceased. However, the meetings have continued on without her, something easily demonstrable from the governor’s own press releases and public statements.
Simply put, Governor Bullock has chosen to ignore a female colleague and leave public educators out of discussions on coronavirus recovery, mostly likely because Arntzen is both a self-actualized woman and a Republican.
According to Arntzen, Bullock refuses to clarify with her his school closure directive, verify funding to schools, explain district enrollment requirements, provide support for transportation, or help local districts utilize Coronavirus Relief Funds. An essential component of coronavirus recovery – the public school system – is being completely left out in the cold because the governor has politicized his response to the virus.
Arntzen added, “The governor continues his negligent disservice to Montana’s students, families, and educators. My agency has in good faith and in the spirit of cooperation offered language, data, and support to aid good decision-making. In fact, a great deal of OPI employee time has been spent remedying the education-related errors in the governor’s directives. These mistakes needlessly occurred and wasted resources that could have been used for serving students.”