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Windy Boy charter schools bill faces uncertain future


February 16, 2017

Staff and wire report

A local Democrat’s proposal to establish a statewide charter school system faces an uncertain future in Montana, even as Republicans hailed it as an opportunity to lift struggling schools.

Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, wants to establish a seven-member charter school commission to oversee the new program.

Administrative Rules of Montana already allows the creation of charter schools. In the rules, school districts may draft a charter which the state Board of Education may grant if it is requested by publicly funded schools or or programs under the supervision and control of a locally elected board of trustees in an existing district. The charter school must meet or exceed the requirements of the state Constitution, state law and accreditation standards, the ARMs rules say.

Democrats have generally been opposed to recent efforts to change the rules for charter schools, and a policy adviser for Gov. Steve Bullock spoke against Windy Boy’s proposal during a hearing before the House Education Committee Wednesday.

Republican leaders say Windy Boy’s proposal could provide the necessary flexibility to help struggling students, particularly those in Montana’s Indian Country.

The proposal could also face legal challenges. A legislative legal review raised concerns about whether the Legislature has the constitutional authority to establish a charter school commission.

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