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Parents voice concerns as conservative curriculum company enters Montana

Posted at 6:52 PM, Oct 16, 2023

BILLINGS — From asking Christopher Columbus about slavery to instructing women on how to be more feminine, PragerU is giving kids lessons in history, civics, and current events with a different spin.

Now these lessons, built by Prager University, could be available in Montana schools, spurring a mixed reaction from parents.

"There's definitely a political agenda attached to it," said Clementine Lindley, a Billings mother who has two children in the public school system.

Despite the name its name, Prager University is not an accredited educational institution. It's a conservative, nonprofit organization founded by Dennis Prager, a well-known right wing talk show host.

Getting approval to be a curriculum option in Montana is not based on political leaning, as state law is more black and white.

"We are following the law, making sure that if a company comes to us and they've got a business practice and it's filed with the Secretary of State with a surety bond, I open the gate. I open the gate," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

Arntzen says OPI is frequently approached by textbook dealers and curriculum companies and they must fit state standards of financial security and fulfillment of Montana educational requirements in order to be given a one-year license. PragerU approached Montana to get a license of operation and was approved in August, making it the fourth state nationwide to accept PragerU.

"What enticed me about them is that they fit the mold of social studies, civics, financial literacy as well as being adaptable to any learning model through that virtual platform," Arntzen said.

"They could go to a rural school, they could be part of a larger school district, they could be part of a digital learning platform in a home school. Doesn't mean that they will be in our state in a school because the school district is the one that then allows that other gate to open and allow them to be coming in."

The curriculum will not be automatically implemented in schools as individual districts and school trustees must make a decision to vote the curriculum in and allocate the necessary funding.

A move Lindley hopes will not be made in Billings public schools.

"I think it's really important that if this is truly going to be an education tool, that whatever is being taught from that system needs to be taught with a counter perspective from a different system," Lindley said.