Feb 12, 2013 12:15 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)
HELENA - The Montana House of Representatives passed three bills that would dramatically change the public education system in the state.
Republicans say the measures are about school choice.
"Not all kids are educated adequately in the public school system," said Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau).
But Democrats say these bills are attempting to privatize public schools.
"This is giving public money, the people's money to private institutions with no accountability," Rep. Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula) countered.
The first bill, HB 213, would give families a $550 tax credit for putting their children in private schools. The second bill, HB 288, would appropriate money so the state could pay for families that have a child with special needs to attend private school. And the third, House Bill 315, would create public charter schools.
"When it comes to the public education of my children in this state, I don't have a choice. One size fits all. That's the tactic we've taken in this state," Rep. Austin Knudsen (R-Culbertson) said Monday.
The charter school bill would use taxpayer money to fund a school that is run by a private organization.
Republicans say children are slipping through the cracks charter schools give parents a choice where to educate their kids. But, Democrats say taxpayer money should be going toward public education not private groups.
"These are just publicly funded private schools, period. No teacher certification, no school board, no accountability to the board of public education," Rep. Frankie Wilmer (D-Bozeman) said.
All three bills passed the House on second reading, with Republicans largely supporting them and Democrats banding together to vote against them. They now have one more procedural vote before heading to the Senate.