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.
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
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 that would allow charter schools to open in the state to the House floor for a vote. 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.
To see the bill, click here.
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.
School vouchers and tax credits
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.
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.
Public school open enrollment
According to the Education Commission of the States, Montana has two open enrollment policies:
- Inter-district/voluntary policy
- 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.
In Montana in 2012-2013 an estimated 4,295 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.
A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.
School choice ballot measures
Ballotpedia has tracked no statewide ballot measures relating to school choice in Montana.
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 state budget and finances
- Montana Department of Education
- Montana school districts
- Education policy in the U.S.
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "School Choice and Charters," accessed June 18, 2014
- Friedman Foundation for School Choice, "What is School Choice?" accessed June 18, 2014
- Washington Examiner, "Another state joins the charter school movement," March 20, 2015
- Flathead Beacon, "Montana Education Committee OKs Proposal for Charter Schools," March 26, 2015
- Public School Review, "What is a magnet school?" accessed December 9, 2014
- Magnet Schools of America, "What are magnet schools?" accessed December 9, 2014
- National Center for Education Statistics, "Number of operating public elementary and secondary schools, by school type," accessed December 17, 2014
- The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "School Choice in Montana," accessed June 23, 2014
- Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, "Montana," accessed June 23, 2014
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "Private School Universe Survey (PSS)", 2011-12 ; "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey, v.1a.," accessed May 12, 2014
- Education Commission of the States, "Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," accessed June 23, 2014
- A2Z Home's Cool, "Number of Homeschoolers in the USA," updated February 2, 2014
State of Montana
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