HB 229 and the Constitutional Amendment


Now that the legislature has passed the amended House Bill 229, the citizens of this state will be asked to make some important decisions about the governance structure of the Montana University System. House Bill 229 calls for a vote in the next general election (November 1996) on an amendment to Article X, Section 9 of the Montana constitution. The amendment will eliminate the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Higher Education and replace them with a department of education, a director, and a state education commission. Article X Section 9 now reads (in part):

Boards of education.

  1. There is a state board of education composed of the board of regents of higher education and the board of public education. It is responsible for long-range planning, and for coordinating and evaluating policies and programs for the state's educational systems. * * *

    1. The government and control of the Montana university system is vested in a board of regents of higher education which shall have full power, responsibility, and authority to supervise, coordinate, manage, and control the Montana university system and shall supervise and coordinate other public educational institutions assigned by law.

    2. The board consists of seven members appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the senate, to overlapping terms, as provided by law. The governor and the superintendent of public instruction are ex officio non-voting members of the board.

    3. The board shall appoint a commissioner of higher education and prescribe his term and duties.

If the amendment is adopted Section 9 will read (in part):

Department of education--state education commission--board of public education

  1. There is a department of education with a director appointed by the governor. The department and the director shall have duties as assigned by law.

  2. There is a state education commission, consisting of eight members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate to staggered terms as provided by law. The commission shall have duties assigned by law.
    * * * Effective Date. If approved by the electorate, this amendment is effective on passage and approval.

  3. Transition. Upon passage and approval, the governor may create a department of education and the state education commission as provided in Article X, Section 9. The department and the commission may exercise statutorily assigned duties. The board of regents and the commissioner of higher education shall continue to perform duties that were constitutionally assigned until January 1, 2001. The terms of office and appointments to the board of regents remain in effect until January 1, 2001.

These changes in the governance structure of the MUS are of tremendous importance. The Montana Professor is prepared to do whatever it can to see to it that the issues involved and the possible implications for the quality of higher education in this state are fully explored.

We urge our readers to contact any member of the editorial board or the editors with any ideas or suggestions you might have. The editorial board will be meeting in Helena on April 28. Your comments and suggestions can be discussed there and plans made for how this publication is to proceed. The several issues of MP which will appear between now and the election in November 1996 could be used in large part to provide opportunity to explore the problems and possibilities inherent in these changes.

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