How To Use Montana’s New School Choice Laws
"With the focus on funding individual educational choices of students rather than on the geographical location of schools, Montana families will finally be the drivers of their children’s education."
These new laws empower parents to make personal and individualized choices about the use of public education funds. Equipped with new means, Montanans can now create diverse public school options and develop markets offering specialized educational services. —Trish Schreiber, Senior Education Fellow
You heard that right, Montana’s new Education Freedom laws are making waves across Montana by finally giving families more ability to direct their child’s education!
But since becoming law I’ve received a flurry of inquiries from parents and communities asking for information on how to navigate these new laws. That’s why Senior Education Fellow, Trish Schreiber dedicated her inaugural education column to creating A User’s Guide to Montana’s Nascent Education Freedom Laws.
Her column unpacks two new transformative Education Freedom opportunities: Community Choice Schools and Special Needs Equal Opportunity Education Savings Account.
Community Choice Schools
Community Choice Schools enable average citizens to design unique, mission-focused public schools.
Step One: To begin, interested citizens should find like-minded partners. Start by holding a town meeting or organizing a video conference, inviting neighbors, colleagues and friends. Discuss ideas, exchange information and agree to meet again. During the process of networking and developing a mission for the Choice School, identify board members. Leaders will be identified based on their consistent attendance and by participating in robust conversations about forming a school.
Step Two: Once a board is recognized, continue with regular board meetings and create bylaws and articles of incorporation, so the board can hold its first officer elections.
Special Needs Equal Opportunity Education Savings Account (ESA)
Montana’s ESA establishes a trust account within the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to receive a portion of the per-pupil funding for participating students and to distribute to parents as reimbursement for approved, educational expenditures within the private market. Only students eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can participate.
Step One: To enroll, parents must first sign a contract with the OPI to release the school of its obligation to educate the student and agree to use the funds solely for educational purposes.
With the focus on funding individual educational choices of students rather than on the geographical location of schools, Montana families will finally be the drivers of their children’s education. Be on the lookout, as I’ll be sending you more ways you can get involved and utilize Montana’s new Education Freedom laws.
See you Today!
If you haven’t heard already, we will be joining other Education Freedom advocates today in Billings to celebrate recent wins during the Legislature – and we want you to join us!
Not only will this be a great opportunity to learn more about recent Education Freedom wins but you will also be able to get plugged into a community of individuals and organizations that are passionate about making sure you can direct your child’s education.
American’s–On All Sides–Want School Choice
A new survey of registered voters in America found that 71% supported the concept of school choice while just 13% opposed. Broken down along party lines, the concept of school choice enjoyed support from 66% of Democrats, 80% among Republicans, and 69% among Independents. All of these groups have seen an increase in support for school choice since 2020.
Our Take: Parents across the country are fed up with not being able to truly direct their child’s education. As support for education freedom increases it is vital that Montana leaders respond by securing reforms that fund students not systems.
Is Increasing Forest Management Funding Enough By Itself?
This week, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau was in Bonner to announce the latest federal funding aimed at increasing forest management treatment areas.
Our Take: While more funding may help increase forest management projects to some extent, it is not enough by itself. Leaders must address the red tape that routinely blocks important projects, as well as obstructionist litigation from radical environmentalist groups which delay forest projects until it’s too late. Without addressing these underlying issues these funds risk being squandered.