Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Court order on charter schools a win for Montana

by Elsie Arntzen
| April 25, 2024 12:00 AM

Education leaders have the tremendous opportunity and responsibility to implement public charter schools for the benefit of Montana’s children.

Woke organizations, with no accountability to our taxpayers, used our Montana court system to attack me and delay the opening of public charter schools that were passed under HB 549 during the 2023 legislative session. These manufactured, politically motivated delays put Montana students, families and schools in harm’s way.

As a constitutional officer, I took an oath to uphold the laws that govern our great state. When my office is tasked with creating guidance for our schools, I put that oath into practice by following the letter of the law. Legislators, the Board of Public Education and unaccountable associations demanded that I ignore my constitutional duty.

The Legislature enacted public charter schools that:

• Enhance the educational opportunity and potential of Montana students

• Create innovative educational options for parents

• Give parents the option to choose the best way to educate their children

A recent court order stated that the Office of Public Instruction, “is charged with opening, the Board (of Public Education) with preopening; the Board establishes schools, OPI opens them.” 

This has been my position from the start. I am pleased that the court’s decision clarified that my position was within the boundaries of the public charter and school opening statutes.

The court also ordered OPI to not require existing information in the school opening statutes for elementary schools: “compliance with the parental petition, county superintendent approval and county commission approval provisions.” 

How the Legislature might amend those statutes is a discussion for another day.

Immediately upon receiving the court’s decision my office reached out to the Board of Public Education and notified the 11 school districts that have the 19 public charter school contracts. I am excited to announce that the process of opening the new public charter schools has begun, despite the delays by woke associations.

I am encouraged that public charter schools give parents a choice in the education of their children. 

During my years as state superintendent, my focus has been putting Montana students first. I remain accountable to our constitution, our laws, and our Montana students and parents.

Elsie Arntzen is Montana’s superintendent of public instruction.