MQEC Announces Commitment to Protect Montana Constitution
(HELENA) Following Gov. Gianforte’s signing of HB 562 and HB 393, the Montana Quality Education Coalition (MQEC) announced its commitment to challenge both unconstitutional measures in court.
“MQEC and our partners have defended Montanans’ Article X constitutional right to free, quality public schools for over twenty years,” said MQEC Executive Director Doug Reisig. “Legislators from both parties recognized HB 562 and HB 393 as both unconstitutional and terrible policy. We’ll bring the necessary lawsuits to clean up these constitutional mistakes.”
If HB 562 is implemented, communities across Montana would see scarce public resources diverted from their local public schools to unaccountable private charter schools. These charter schools could hire unlicensed teachers and would be exempt from health and safety laws. Eventually, local property taxes would increase to maintain Montana’s public schools and this new parallel system of private charters. Tax-payers would then be denied their constitutional right to vote for and be represented on these private charters’ school boards.
“School trustees across Montana have an elected responsibility to make sure our public schools are accountable to tax-payers,” said MTSBA Executive Director Lance Melton. “By creating a system of taxation without representation, HB 562 would allow these new charter schools to hide their staffing, finances, curriculum, and performance from tax-payers. That’s unconstitutional.”
HB 393 would create an unconstitutional voucher system Montanans have always resisted. Under the law, Montanans could see their tax dollars be paid to private, for-profit special education vendors. These vendors would not be held liable to federal special education requirements. The public school of the student using a voucher would still be held liable for an education they’d no longer be providing.
“Montanans don’t want to see our tax dollars go to out of state corporations selling online education to profit off special education students,” said MFPE President Amanda Curtis. “Such a system is unconstitutional, jeopardizes federal funding, and we trust the courts will invalidate it.”
MQEC’s partners include the Montana School Board Association, Montana Federation of Public Employees, School Administrators of Montana, Montana Rural Education Association, Montana Association of School Business Officials, and 98 school districts. The board voted to hire counsel and file lawsuits challenging both HB 562 and HB 393 in the coming weeks.