Montana Governor Greg Gianforte Signs Monumental Charter School Bill Into Law

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HB 562, The Community Choice Schools Act, brings public education options to students and families in Montana, the 46th state to enact a charter school law

Today, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed The Community Choice Schools Act (HB 562) into law, bringing public education options to students and families throughout the state and enacting a strong charter school law in Montana. Until today, Montana was one of the only five states in the nation that did not allow public charter schools, depriving families of the opportunity to choose innovative public schools that best fit their students’ needs. All public charter schools, or community choice schools as they are called in HB 562, are public schools and free to attend.  

“We are thrilled for Montanan families, students, and teachers and send our heartfelt thanks to Governor Gianforte,” says Nina Rees, CEO and President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Montana is the 46th state to allow public charter schools. Every parent from every state should have the options available to send their child to a high-quality public school of their choice, and we are excited that Montanan communities will finally have more options.”   

“Our community choice school bill recognizes that parents are asking for more options in our education system. This bill will expand our educational offerings and empower parents and students to pursue the best possible education that fits their child’s needs. I was honored to carry the bill and so proud and appreciative of all the support we received from parents all across Montana,” says bill sponsor Representative Sue Vinton.  

“This bill is going to have a meaningful impact for any community looking to establish a choice school by providing students with greater opportunities to succeed and thrive in our education system. This is a great victory for more choice, opportunity, and accountability in our schools,” says Senator Kenneth Bogner. 

HB 562 was championed by citizens who saw a need for public education options in their state. Trish Schreiber, one of the citizen leaders who advocated for this bill, says, “This was a colossal effort, 24 years in the making, that ultimately was accomplished by having a strong relationship with the National Alliance in conjunction with the right bill, the right sponsor, the right leadership in both chambers and, of course, the right Governor.”  

Ms. Schreiber’s partner in this work, Chip Lindenlaub, says, “Thank you to the numerous Montana citizens, from all walks of life, who volunteered your time and made your voices heard by our legislators. Many of you have nothing, personally, to gain other than a desire to give Montana’s students the best possible education. We succeeded because of your effort.”  

Without the leadership of House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, the bill’s sponsor, and Senator Kenneth Bogner, this bill would not have been enacted into law. The National Alliance, Ms. Schreiber, and Mr. Lindenlaub also extend their gratitude to: House Speaker Matt Regier, Senate President Jason Ellsworth, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick, as well as Representatives Seekins Crowe, Fiona Nave, Terry Falk, Naarah Hastings, and Jonathan Windy Boy, and Senators John Fuller, Daniel Emrich, Becky Beard, and Keith Regier for their support. 

The Community Choice Schools Act includes the following provisions: 

  • Authorizer: A charter school authorizing board, known as the Commission, comprised of seven members appointed by a diverse group of elected officials. The Commission will review and make decisions about charter school applications, enter into contracts with approved applications, and hold charter schools accountable for results. 
  • Flexibility: Public charter schools will be given the flexibility to innovate, leading to a variety of educational models available to Montana’s families and educators. 
  • Accountability: The performance provisions within the charter contract must be based on a performance framework that clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance indicators.  
  • Enrollment: Charter schools will be open to all students in the state. If there are fewer seats than students, a lottery will be held.  

The remaining states without a public charter school law are Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont.