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Montana school districts

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K-12 Education in Montana
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Education facts
State Superintendent: Denise Juneau
Number of students: 142,349[1]
Number of teachers: 10,153
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:14
Number of school districts: 500
Number of schools: 826
Graduation rate: 84%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $10,639[3]
See also
Montana Department of EducationList of school districts in MontanaMontanaSchool boards portal
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Education policy project
Public education in the United States
Public education in Montana
Glossary of education terms

Montana is home to 500 school districts, 826 schools and 142,349 K-12 students.[4]

Quick facts

State school administrators

  • State Board of Education[5]
    • Sharon Carroll, Chairperson
    • Bernard Olson, Vice-Chairperson
    • Mary Jo Bremner
    • John Edwards
    • Erin Williams
    • Lila Taylor
    • Paul Andersen
    • Greta Gustafson


The following table displays the state's top 10 school districts by total student enrollment.[6]

Student enrollment
1.) Billings Elementary
2.) Great Falls Elementary
3.) Billings High
4.) Helena Elementary
5.) Missoula Elementary
6.) Bozeman Elementary
7.) Missoula High
8.) Great Falls High
9.) Helena High
10.) Butte Elementary


See also: Demographic information for all students in all 50 states

The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Montana as reported in the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.[7]

Demographic information for Montana's K-12 public school system
Ethnicity Students State Percentage United States Percentage**
American Indian 16,530 11.61% 1.10%
Asian 1,212 0.85% 4.68%
African American 1,436 1.01% 15.68%
Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. students 369 0.26% 0.42%
Hispanic 5,248 3.69% 24.37%
White 115,184 80.92% 51.21%
Two or more 2,370 1.66% 2.54%
**Note: This is the percentage of all students in the United States that are reported to be of this ethnicity.

State law

Common Core

Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Montana Board of Public Education adopted the standards on November 4, 2011. Full implementation took place during the 2013-2014 academic year.[8][9]

School board composition

Montana school board members are elected by residents of the school district. Montana school board elections typically follow the district method. In district elections, only voters residing in a specific geographic area within the school district may vote on certain candidates, who must also reside in that specific geographic area.

The number of board members in an elementary school district depends on the size of the population in the district, along with whether the board has voted to expand its size. Districts with a population of 6,500 or more have seven trustees, districts with a population between 1,000 and 6,500 have five trustees and districts with a population of less than 1,000 have three trustees. The second kind of district can vote to increase its number of trustees from five to seven, and the third kind of district can vote to increase its number of trustees from three to five.

The number of board members in a high school district is dependent on the number of board members in the elementary school district it services, assuming that the high school is located within an elementary school district. If the high school is located in an area with multiple elementary school districts, its number of trustees is dependent on the elementary school district that was established first. The newer elementary school district can petition to increase the size of the high school district's board, or it can be increased by a voter petition to the county superintendent. County high school districts and K-12 districts each have seven trustees.

School board members serve three-year terms, although exceptions are possible.[10]

District types

Montana contains four types of school districts. Elementary districts educate students in grades K-8. Some elementary districts contain high school districts, which are dependent entities of the elementary district or districts in which they are located. County high school districts are independent entities that educate students in grades 9-12. K-12 districts educate students of all ages. If an elementary district and a high school district have the same boundaries, they are required by law to join together as a K-12 district. Elementary districts and county high school districts can also unify together, although that process requires the passage of a referendum.[11]

Term limits

Montana does not impose statewide term limits on school board members.[12]

School board elections

Upcoming elections

See also: Montana school board elections, 2015

A total of one Montana school district among America's largest school districts by enrollment will hold an election in 2015 for four seats. Billings Public Schools will hold its election on May 5, 2015.

The district served 10,943 K-12 students during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Click on the district name for more information on the district and its school board election.

2015 Montana School Board Elections
District Date Seats up for election Total board seats Student enrollment
Billings Public Schools 5/5/2015 4 9 10,943

Path to the ballot

To qualify for the ballot as a school board candidate in Montana, a person must be:

  • A registered voter in the district at the time of the candidacy filing deadline
  • A resident of the district

A person must not be:

  • Employed by the district
  • Running simultaneously for another public office

The process of running for office as a school board candidate begins with filing a "petition of nomination" and an "oath of candidacy." Elementary school district candidates must file petitions with at least 20 signatures, but candidates in other types of school districts are only required to file petitions with a minimum of five signatures. Both the petition and the oath must be filed with the election administrator between 135 and 40 days prior to the election.

To run as a write-in candidate, the candidate must file a "declaration of intent for write-in candidates" form with the election administrator at least 26 days prior to the election. People who receive write-in votes but who did not file that form will still have their votes counted as long as the election is held, they legally qualify to be a candidate and no other candidate has filed for the election. Candidates may withdraw from the ballot if they file a written statement of withdrawal with the district clerk at least 38 days prior to the election.

School board elections are held annually on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.[10]

Campaign finance

If a school board candidate, including a write-in candidate, is running in a district with a population over 15,000, or in a county high school district with a population over 2,000 where the candidate has received or spent more than $500, that candidate must file campaign finance reports with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices. Those reports include a pre-election report and a post-election report, along with a "48 hour report" if a candidate receives a contribution of $100 or more from a single source in the 17 days leading up to the election.[10][13]

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Facts About Montana Education, September 2012," accessed August 6, 2013
  5. Montana Board of Public Education, "Montana Board of Public Education Members," accessed June 13, 2014
  6. Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Montana Public School Enrollment Data, Fall 2011-12," accessed August 6, 2013
  7. United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
  8. Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State," accessed June 12, 2014
  9. Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Montana English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards and Assessments," accessed June 17, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Montana Office of Public Instruction, "School Election Handbook," accessed July 10, 2014
  11. United States Census Bureau, "Montana," accessed July 10, 2014
  12. National School Boards Association, "Survey of the State School Boards Associations on Term Limits for Local Board Members," accessed July 8, 2014
  13. Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, "Campaign Finance Report Calendar for School Trustee Candidates," accessed July 10, 2014