Apr. 8 – HB 603 is one of the most dangerous school privatization bills ever introduced in the MT Legislature.
Below are facts that demonstrate if this bill passes, every school community in Montana could – at least theoretically – be for sale to the highest private sector bidder, from almost anywhere in the world, over which the community itself may exercise no authority, and all at tax payer expense.
HB 603 –
- Potentially divests local school communities and their tax payers of direct control over their local schools.
- Creates charter schools that are public in name only.
- Permits charter schools to contract with their authorizers for services.
- Further permits charter schools to contract out for their services with virtually any “for profit education management organization” in Montana, our nation, the world.
- Provides an opportunity for charter schools to go virtual and as such in some communities – even the smallest communities, maybe especially in the smallest Class 3 or C communities – eliminate whatever brick and mortar public schools that may exist.
- Empowers charter school governing boards to be whomever they want to be as may be outlined in their charter applications. These governing boards could be elected but by whom? They could be appointed, but again, by whom?
- Permits student body selection favoring family and friends.
- Restricts enrollments through a lottery — however the charter school sees fit.
- Excuses charter school teachers from being licensed and endorsed in Montana. If so, who will these teachers be?
- Sets up charter schools – with or without local school district consent – to compete with existing public schools for state funding — and federal But HB 603 does not in every way spell out how public schools will share all public funding with charter schools, but they will share.
- Violates Article 10, Sections 8 and 9 that empower local boards of trustees and the board of public education to supervise, control, and govern the public schools of our state.
- Creates an entirely new universe of schools, a parallel universe, and hands its governance over to a new state commission, a unlimited array of possible authorizes, and a wholly unspecified collection of possible charter schools, and whomever or whatever charter schools contract for services.
- MEA-MFT agree parents should have choices. Fortunately, they have many in our existing public schools. Getting more all the time. And of course parents have forever in Montana been able to enroll their children in any private, religious, home, or virtual school they want.
- MEA-MFT would be happy to present to the legislature a charter school bill that conforms with our constitution and law, IF legislators would not then attempt to do what proponents of HB 603 want to do. We have made this statement over and over. But that is NOT what the proponents of HB 603 want.
- Proponents want to steamroll right over the top of our very excellent public schools. Proponents have supported other bills in this legislature that have already died that would provide tuition tax credits for private, religious, and home schools. All unconstitutional in Montana – Article 10, Sections 1 and 6.
- Bottom line, proponents want to create publicly funded pathways to educational secession from the people’s public schools — the root of our democracy — the only remaining hope we have for extending any sense of social compact into an uncertain future.
- Finally, proponents can provide no evidence that charter schools will in and of themselves solve our dropout issues.