Montana legislators finally get their school-choice law

Thursday, June 4, 2015
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

Montana became the nation's 22nd "school choice" state when its legislature passed a bill this year. 

But the state still has a way to go to be more friendly to parental options, says a school-choice advocacy group. 

Matt Frendeway of the American Federation for Children says Gov. Steve Bullock opposed the bill creating tax credit scholarships. But in Montana, he points out, a bill becomes law after a period of time without the governor's signature.

Describing the political situation, Frendeway says Bullock recognized "the tide was against him," and the legislature would continue sending similar school-choice bills to him. 

"And the easiest way for him to do it was to let it slide through and not sign it," Frendeway says of Bullock, a Democrat.  

The governor said he would not veto the legislation because it relies on private donations and does not divert funds from public schools, The Associated Press reported. 

"While I am concerned about using public resources for private education," Bullock said, "I am supportive of the provisions of the bill that allow taxpayers to direct money to build upon innovative programming in local public schools." 

The school-choice expert says a second bill would have created education savings accounts for families with special needs children. Bullock vetoed that legislation.

Federation of Children reports there is 80-plus percent support for special-needs school choice across the country, even among Democratic legislators who oppose school choice measures.

Though tax credit scholarships became law, five other bills dealing with choice were either vetoed or killed in the Montana legislature. But Frendeway says the high demand for school choice throughout the state ensures those bills will be reintroduced in upcoming legislative sessions.

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