School choice in Montana

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School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public schools to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.[1][2]

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.

Educational choice options

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Charter schools

As of March 2015, Montana was one of seven states that had not passed charter school legislation. On March 25, 2015, the education committee of the Montana House of Representatives approved sending a bill to the House floor for a vote that would allow charter schools to open in the state. The bill, HB 596, was sponsored by Representative Austin Knudsen, who previously worked on charter school proposals in 2013 and 2011. By estimates from the Montana Governor's Office of Budget and Program Planning, charter schools in the state may require annual funding of around $1 million.[3][4]

To see the bill, click here.

Magnet schools

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Magnet schools, sometimes called theme-based schools, are public schools of choice that use a specialized subject area or innovative learning approach to attract students from more diverse backgrounds. In fact, magnet schools began as a way to desegregate public schools through choice rather than force. Magnet schools can reach beyond the barriers of school districts, but they are still managed and funded publicly by local districts, even though they are centered around specialized themes and subjects. Montana was not reported to have any magnet schools as of December 2014. It is unclear if the state allows for the designation of magnet schools.[5][6][7]

School vouchers and tax credits

Montana provides neither school vouchers nor school choice tax credits.[8]

Online learning

According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, the state-led Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) is hosted by the University of Montana's College of Education and Human Sciences. In the 2012-13 academic year, MTDA had 7,993 course enrollments. It is a supplemental online learning program. There are no statewide, fully virtual schools in Montana.[9]

In addition to MDTA, there are some single-district online learning programs.[9]

Private schools

In the 2011-12 school year, 9,191 students, or 6.46 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 101 private schools. Montana ranks 40th highest in the nation in private school attendance.[10]

Public school open enrollment

According to the Education Commission of the States, Montana has two open enrollment policies:[11]

  1. Inter-district/voluntary policy
  2. Inter-district/mandatory policy

Intra-district policies provide for the transfer of students within a school district, while inter-district policies allow students to transfer between districts. Under mandatory open enrollment policies, school districts are required to participate. Under voluntary policies, school districts may choose whether to participate.[11]


In Montana in 2012-2013 an estimated 4,295 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.[12]

A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.

School choice ballot measures

See also: School choice on the ballot and List of Montana ballot measures

Ballotpedia has tracked no statewide ballot measures relating to school choice in Montana.

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Montana + Education + Choice"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Montana School Choice News Feed

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See also