Montana House approves bill establishing charter schools

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – A bill that its sponsor says would provide additional educational opportunities by establishing a public charter schools act passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 55-44 on Monday.

Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, is the sponsor of House Bill 376 and said during the bill’s first hearing that 75 percent of high school students graduate. He said his bill aims to address the other 25 percent.

“The public school system, which I’m a product of, tells me that the system doesn’t work for everybody,” Windy Boy said.

Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, also supported the bill at its first hearing. He said when the constitution was written, it was included that every child in America was guaranteed a free public education.

Fred Thomas

“The constitution doesn’t guarantee the unions in our schools the right to control them and the money that are there, and that’s the scenario we have today,” Thomas said.

Executive Director of the Montana Board of Public Education Peter Donovan opposed the bill during the first hearing.

“These public charter schools would not have to meet the minimum standards that all other public schools in the state public system are required to meet,” Donovan said.

President of MEA-MFT Eric Feaver also opposed the bill and said this bill is not about unions in schools.

“This bill is about doing something that can already be done in any school district in the state, as the opponents have already affirmed over and over,” Feaver said.

The bill will now be moved to the Senate.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.