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Education choice opponents use same old arguments to fight Montana special needs bill

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

The Montana Senate is now considering a bill that would offer special needs children access to Education Savings Accounts worth roughly $6,816. A hearing was held this week, allowing opponents yet another opportunity to use the same tired arguments as before.

HB 393 passed the House by a vote of 66-32. This is one of several education choice bills introduced in the Treasure State so far this year, but it has the most momentum.

HB 393 would allow parents who choose to sign up funds for their child that can be used on private school tuition and fees, textbooks, curriculum, tutoring, education therapies, transportation and other education related expenses. It can be a tremendously helpful tool for parents who might not have the resources they need to get their child the extra help he or she requires.

One testifier called the proposal “inappropriate” and claimed it would “take money from public schools.” Another called it “anti-public schools.”

A representative of the League of Women Voters claimed there was “no research” to show education choice would help improve outcomes. (Most credible, major studies have concluded that educational outcomes improve when education choice is permitted - not only for students taking advantage of education choice, but also with those who did not.)

The Montana Federation of Public Employees claimed “students would be harmed” when they are allowed to take their education dollars and go someplace else.

One Senator asked for an updated fiscal note to include the cost of litigation – indicating that she believed lawsuits would be filed to stop the program.

Closing comments were provided by Senator Sue Vinton, the sponsor. They are a must-watch.

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