Public education in Montana
Energy • Environment • Fracking • Public education • Higher education • School choice • Public pensions • State budget and finances • Taxes • Voting • Ballot access • Redistricting • Nonprofit regulation
- 1 State agencies
- 2 Regional comparison
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Academic performance
- 5 Educational choice options
- 6 Education funding and expenditures
- 7 Organizations
- 8 Taxpayer-funded lobbying
- 9 Studies and reports
- 10 School districts
- 11 Education ballot measures
- 12 Recent news
- 13 See also
- 14 External links
- 15 References
List of school districts in Montana
Public education in Montana
School board elections portal
- Adopt standards of accreditation for Montana schools and establish the accreditation status of each school;
- Effect a system of teacher certification, including the accreditation of the teacher and administrator training programs;
- Consider the suspension or revocation of teacher certificates and hear appeals from the denial of teacher certificates;
- Administer and order the distribution of state equalization aid;
- Adopt policies for the special education of handicapped and gifted and talented students; and
- Act as the governing agency for the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind.
The board is composed of eight members, seven of whom are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. Board members serve seven-year terms. The composition of the board must meet the following requirements:
- No more than four may be from one of the two commission districts
- No more than four may be affiliated with the same political party
One student representative is selected by the Montana Association of Student Councils to serve a one-year term.
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.
- See also: General comparison table for education statistics in the 50 states
- See also: Education spending per pupil in all 50 states
The following chart shows how Montana compares to three neighboring states with respect to number of students, schools, the number of teachers per pupil, and the number of administrators per pupil. Further comparisons between these states with respect to performance and financial information are given in other sections of this page.
|State||Schools||Districts||Students||Teachers||Teacher/pupil ratio||Administrator/pupil ratio||Per pupil spending|
| Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a.|
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
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.
|Demographic information for Montana's K-12 public school system|
|Ethnicity||Students||State Percentage||United States Percentage**|
|Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. students||369||0.26%||0.42%|
|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.|
Enrollments by region type
A plurality of students in Montana attend rural schools. Approximately 74 percent of the state's students attend rural or town schools, compared to approximately 26 percent who attend city or suburban schools.
|Student distribution by region type, 2011 - 2012 (as percents)|
|State||City schools||Suburban schools||Town schools||Rural schools|
|Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD) (timed out)|
- See also: NAEP scores by state
The National Center for Education Statistics provides state-by-state data on student achievement levels in mathematics and reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Compared to three neighboring states (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming), Montana has the highest share of eighth grade students who scored at or above proficient in reading.
|Percent of students scoring at or above proficient, 2012-2013|
|Math - Grade 4||Math - Grade 8||Reading - Grade 4||Reading - Grade 8|
|Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014|
|NAEP assessment data for all students 2012-2013|
Graduation, ACT and SAT scores
|Comparison table for graduation rates and test scores*|
|State||Graduation rate, 2012||Average ACT Composite, 2012||Average SAT Composite, 2013|
|Percent||Quintile ranking**||Score||Participation rate||Score||Participation rate|
| *Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Rate (except for Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, which did not report “Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate,” but instead used their own method of calculation).|
**Graduation rates for states in the first quintile ranked in the top 20 percent nationally. Similarly, graduation rates for states in the fifth quintile ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally.
Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express
- See also: Public high school dropout rates by state for a full comparison of dropout rates by group in all states
The high school event dropout rate indicates the proportion of students who were enrolled at some time during the school year and were expected to be enrolled in grades 9–12 in the following school year but were not enrolled by October 1 of the following school year. Students who have graduated, transferred to another school, died, moved to another country, or who are out of school due to illness are not considered dropouts. The average public high school event dropout rate for the United States remained constant at 3.3 percent for both SY 2010–11 and SY 2011–12. The event dropout rate for Montana was higher than the national average at 4.3 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, and 4.1 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
Educational choice options
- See also: School choice in Montana
School choice options in Montana include: inter-district open enrollment policies and online learning programs. In addition, about 6.46 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.
Education funding and expenditures
- See also: Montana state budget and finances
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), the state spent approximately 15.5 percent of its fiscal year 2012 budget on elementary and secondary education. As a share of the budget, this is down 4.30 percentage points, or 21.7 percent, from fiscal year 2008, when the state spent 19.8 percent of its budget on elementary and secondary education.
|Comparison of financial figures for school systems|
|State||Percent of budget (2012)||Per pupil spending (2011)||Revenue sources (2011)|
|Percent federal funds||Percent state funds||Percent local funds|
| Sources: NASBO, "State Expenditure Report," Table 8: Elementary and Secondary Education Expenditures As a Percent of Total Expenditures |
U.S. Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011,Governments Division Reports," issued May 2013
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system revenues in Montana totaled approximately $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including revenue sources, for Montana and surrounding states.
|Revenues by source, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Federal revenue||State revenue||Local revenue||Total revenue|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics|
|Public school revenues by source, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system expenditures in Montana totaled approximately $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including expenditure types, for Montana and surrounding states.
|Expenditures by type, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Current expenditures**||Capital outlay||Other***||Total expenditures|
| **Funds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such expenses as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.|
***Includes payments to state and local governments, payments to private schools, interest on school system indebtedness, and nonelementary-secondary expenditures, such as adult education and community services expenditures.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
|Public school expenditures, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average national salary for classroom teachers in public elementary and secondary schools has declined by 1.3 percent from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. During the same period in Montana, the average salary increased by 13.9 percent.
|Estimated average salaries for teachers (in constant dollars**)|
|**"Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI does not account for differences in inflation rates from state to state."|
In 2012 the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now assessed the power and influence of state teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Their rankings were based on 37 different variables in five broad areas, including: resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies and perceived influence. Montana ranked third overall, or "strongest," which was in the first of five tiers.
The main union related to the Montana school system is the Montana Education Association - Montana Federation of Teachers (MEA-MFT). MEA-MFT is the largest education association in the state. For the 2003 tax period MEA-MFT had: $4.92 million in total revenue, $4.91 million in total expenses and $2.33 million in total assets.
List of local Montana school unions:
- Montana Education Association - Montana Federation of Teachers
- Montana Indian Education Association
- Montana Rural Education Association
- Helena Education Association
- Target Range Teachers Association
- See also: Montana government sector lobbying
The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Montana School Boards Association.
Studies and reports
Quality Counts 2014
- See also: Quality Counts 2014 Report
Education Week, a publication that reports on many education issues throughout the country, began using an evaluation system in 1997 to grade each state on various elements of education performance. This system, called Quality Counts, uses official data on performance from each state to generate a report card for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report card in 2014 uses six different categories:
- Chance for success
- K-12 achievement
- Standards, assessments and accountability
- The teaching profession
- School finance
- Transitions and Alignment
Each of these six categories had a number of other elements that received individual scores. Those scores were then averaged and used to determine the final score in each category. Every state received two types of scores for each of the six major categories: A numerical score out of 100 and a letter grade based on that score. Education Week used the score for the first category, "chance for success," as the value for ranking each state and the District of Columbia. The average grade received in the entire country was 77.3, or a C+ average. The country's highest average score was in the category of "standards, assessments and accountability" at 85.3, or a B average. The lowest average score was in "K-12 achievement", at 70.2, or a C- average.
Montana received a score of 76.3, or a C average in the "chance for success" category. This was below the national average. The state's highest score was matched with "standards, assessments and accountability" at 76.3, or a C average. This score matched the score in the "chance for success" category. The lowest score was in "transitions and alignment" at 60.7, or a D- average. Montana had the lowest score in the country for "transitions and alignment." The chart below displays the scores of Montana and its surrounding states.
Note: Click on a column heading to sort the data.
|Public education report cards, 2014|
|State||Chance for success||K-12 achievement||Standards, assessments and accountability||The teaching profession||School finance||Transitions and Alignment|
|Montana||76.3 (C)||69.7 (C-)||76.3 (C)||69.4 (D+)||73.0 (C)||60.7 (D-)|
|North Dakota||86.9 (B+)||68.2 (D+)||85.4 (B)||66.6 (D+)||76.8 (C+)||78.6 (C+)|
|South Dakota||79.6 (B-)||63.2 (D)||73.0 (C)||60.8 (D-)||68.2 (D+)||64.3 (D)|
|Wyoming||79.9 (B-)||70.0 (C-)||79.3 (C+)||66.7 (D+)||90.3 (A-)||78.6 (C+)|
|United States Average||77.3 (C+)||70.2 (C-)||85.3 (B)||72.5 (C)||75.5 (C)||81.1 (B-)|
| Source: Education Week, "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 18, 2015|
A full discussion of how these numbers were generated can be found here.
State Budget Solutions education study
State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009 to 2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates and average ACT scores. The study showed that the states that spent the most did not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor did they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. The full report can be accessed here.
- See also: School board elections portal
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.
- See also: List of school districts in Montana
The following table displays the state's top 10 school districts by total 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|
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.
Montana does not impose statewide term limits on school board members.
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.
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.
Education ballot measures
Ballotpedia has tracked the following statewide ballot measures relating to education.
- Montana Bond for Higher Education, Referendum 1 (1908)
- Montana Bonds for Educational Institutions, I-19 (1920)
- Montana Bonds for State Educational Institutions, R-33 (1930)
- Montana Consolidation of Higher Education Institutions, I-9 (1914)
- Montana Create Board of Education, Amendment 1 (1942)
- Montana Department of Education, C-30 (1996)
- Montana Educational Bonds, R-46 (1942)
- Montana Elected Board of Education Amendment (2016)
- Montana Income from Public School Funds, Amendment 1 (1944)
- Montana Indebtedness of High School Districts, Amendment 1 (1958)
- Montana Interest on School Funds, Amendment 2 (1920)
- Montana Investment of Public School Permanent Fund, Amendment 2 (1938)
- Montana Levy for Education, Referendum 1 (1914)
- Montana Levy for Montana University, LR-106 (1988)
- Montana Levy for Public Schools, R-29 (1926)
- Montana Levy for Technical Education, LR-109 (June 1992)
- Montana Levy for University Maintenance, I-18 (1920)
- Montana Levy for University Support, R-65 (1968)
- Montana Levy to Support University System, LR-75 (1978)
- Montana Qualifications of County Superintendents, Amendment 1 (1924)
- Montana State College Bonds, I-44 (1940)
- Montana State College Bonds, R-45 (1942)
- Montana Training School Bond Issue, R-58 (1954)
- Montana University System Tax Levy, LR-113 (1998)
- Montana University System Tax Levy, LR-118 (2008)
- Montana University of Montana Bonds, R-52 (1948)
- Montana University of Montana Levy, R-42 (1940)
- Montana University of Montana Levy, R-51 (1948)
- Montana University of Montana Levy, R-61 (1958)
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Montana + Education "
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Montana state budget and finances
- Montana Department of Education
- List of school districts in Montana
- Education Policy in the U.S.
- Montana Office of Public Instruction
- Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Montana Board of Public Education
- Montana Advisory Council for Indian Education
- 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
- 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."
- United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD); Table 2.—Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011-12," accessed May 12, 2014
- United States Department of Education, "ED Data Express," accessed May 12, 2014
- The Constitution of the State of Montana, "Article IV," accessed May 22, 2014
- Montana Office of Public Instruction, "State Superintendent of Public Instruction," accessed May 22, 2014
- Montana Board of Public Education, "About Us," accessed May 22, 2014
- Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State," accessed June 12, 2014
- Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Montana English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards and Assessments," accessed June 17, 2014
- 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
- United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014
- ACT, "2012 ACT National and State Scores," accessed May 13, 2014
- Commonwealth Foundation, "SAT Scores by State 2013," October 10, 2013
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Dropout and Graduation Rate Data File, School Year 2010-11, Provision Version 1a and School Year 2011-12, Preliminary Version 1a," accessed May 13, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2011-2013," accessed February 21, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009-2011," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditures Report, 2010-2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2008," accessed February 24, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2010–11," accessed May 13, 2014 (timed out)
- Maciver Institute, "REPORT: How much are teachers really paid?," accessed October 29, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 211.60. Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2012-13," accessed May 13, 2014
- Thomas E Fordham Institute, " How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison," October 29, 2012
- Center for Union Facts, "Montana Education Association - Montana Federation of Teachers," accessed November 10, 2009
- Center for Union Facts, "Montana teachers unions," accessed November 10, 2009
- Education Week "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 19, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "Montana," accessed July 10, 2014
- Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Montana Public School Enrollment Data, Fall 2011-12," accessed August 6, 2013
- Montana Office of Public Instruction, "School Election Handbook," accessed July 10, 2014
- National School Boards Association, "Survey of the State School Boards Associations on Term Limits for Local Board Members," accessed July 8, 2014
- Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, "Campaign Finance Report Calendar for School Trustee Candidates," accessed July 10, 2014
State of Montana
List of Montana ballot measures | Local measures | School bond issues | Ballot measure laws | Initiative laws | History of I&R | History of direct democracy | Campaign Finance Requirements | Recall process |
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Director of the Department of Revenue | State Auditor | Superintendent of Public Instruction | Commissioner of Securities and Insurance | Director of Agriculture | Director of Natural Resources and Conservation | Commissioner of Labor and Industry | Public Service Commission |