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Republican Incumbent Elsie Arntzen Wins Second Term as Montana State Superintendent

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen (Elsie Arntzen/Facebook)

2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

Republican incumbent Elsie Arntzen will hold onto her position as Montana superintendent of public instruction, according to the Associated Press and the Helena Independent Record.

Arntzen won with about 52 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Melissa Romano, earned 44 percent of votes.

Montana Secretary of State

The race was a rematch of 2016 when Arntzen beat Romano by 16,200 votes. After the defeat, Romano returned to the classroom and was Montana Teacher of the Year in 2018. Romano pledged during the campaign to advocate for public preschool if she won and would work closely with the legislature to improve education in the state.

Arntzen is also a former educator and served in the state legislature for 12 years.

Asked in a debate what she had done to help schools adjust to the coronavirus crisis, Arntzen pointed to professional development to prepare educators to teach online. Arntzen publicly criticized Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, for allegedly not consulting her before announcing a mask mandate for schools and allocating $75 million in coronavirus relief to schools. Bullock’s office has disputed those claims. Bullock, who was term-limited, lost a race for the U.S. Senate this week to incumbent Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican.

Arntzen supports school choice and “has attended pro-school-choice rallies and voted for school choice policies as a legislator,” the Billings Gazette reported. School choice has been top of mind recently, with a case out of Montana reaching the Supreme Court earlier this year. In that case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a 5-4 conservative majority found that states could not exclude religious institutions from participating in programs that subsidize private school tuition.

Before Arntzen was elected four years ago, the position was held by Democrats for nearly three decades straight.

Libertarian Kevin Leatherbarrow also ran and earned about 4 percent of the votes.

2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter

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