Is School Choice Coming To Montana?
"No two kids are the same, education options should reflect this reality."
It’s no secret that Montana has struggled to expand school choice, especially when compared with other states, but soon that might not be the case.
Montana families should be happy to hear that legislators in Helena have advanced a number of proposals that would provide parents with more options to choose from when deciding where to send their children to school.
These proposals can be broken down into four categories:
Education Savings Accounts
Sponsored by Rep. Sue Vinton, HB 393 increases education opportunities for Montana students with disabilities by allowing parents to direct a portion of their funds to pay for a variety of educational options. This bill would create Montana’s first Education Savings Account program, often referred to as the gold standard of education freedom.
HB 393 passed the House on a 66 to 32 vote. The bill is now awaiting its first hearing in the Senate.
Legislators have advanced two bills that aim to establish Montana’s first charter school legislation – something that 45 states already have. Still, some claim that Montanans don’t want charter schools as an option, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. A recent news story from MTN News asked Montanans what they think about these charter school proposals, here is what they said:
To get a better understanding of what makes charter school legislation successful and to find out how these two bills stack up, check out our charter school analysis.
Student Scholarship Organization And Innovative Education Tax Credits
Sponsored by Sue Vinton, HB 408 increases the tax credit funding cap for student scholarship organizations and the innovative education program. The increased cap would provide more funding to organizations which provide scholarships to Montana students and increased funding for public schools.
HB 408 passed the House on a 69 to 31 vote. The bill is now awaiting a final committee vote in the Senate.
Sponsored by Rep. David Bedey, HB 203 increases education opportunities for students attending public schools by clarifying their ability to attend a public school outside of their district. Importantly, this bill provides guidelines around when an out-of-district application can be denied, helping to ensure applications are arbitrarily denied.
HB 203 overwhelmingly passed both the House & the Senate. Associated amendments mean the bill will need to be once again approved by the House before it can be sent to the Governor.
No two kids are the same, education options should reflect this reality. Stay tuned as I will continue to update you on the education reforms being worked on in Helena.
Encouraging Innovation Through Regulatory Sandboxes
Legislators are currently debating HB 836, a bill that aims to establish Montana’s first Regulatory Sandbox. Frontier Tech & Innovation Policy Analyst, Chris Isaacs explains what a regulatory sandbox is and how it would benefit Montanans in his most recent column.
“The innovation unleashed in Montana’s regulatory sandbox will not only benefit the insurance industry and their customers, it would also lower the cost of doing business for all Montanans.”
Strengthening Judicial Accountability
HB 326, a bill that seeks to ensure greater independent oversight of the Judicial Standards Commission (JSC), the oversight body for the Judiciary, is headed to the Governor’s desk. Currently, three of the five members of the JSC are appointed by the Supreme Court. Once signed into law, two members, both district judges, will be appointed by the House Speaker, while the Attorney General will appoint the third member, an attorney. The remaining two seats would continue to be appointed by the Governor. All appointees would need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Our Take: HB 326 is in response to the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Accountability and Transparency’s report on Judicial Bias. Frontier Institute has highlighted how other states have more independent JSC’s than Montana.
Graphic Of The Week