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Supporters of National School Choice Week gather in Billings for a rally



Billings, Montana – Charter school supporters gathered in Billings on Friday to voice their concerns about their children’s education and to push for more choices for pupils.

The gathering, which included local students, was demonstrated on the lawn of the Yellowstone County courthouse in honor of National School Choice Week.

Presenters discussed how Montana lags behind the rest of the nation but also noted that certain trends are shifting to provide families with greater options.

Thanks to new legislation enacted by the Legislature in 2023, Montana is scheduled to launch its first state-authorized charter schools, including one in Billings.

At the ceremony, supporters emphasized how valuable they were.

“I’m really proud to celebrate with you guys, your parents’ choice,” Cheryl Tusken, Frontier Institute education outreach coordinator, said to the crowd.

Tusken’s two kids attended both public and charter schools during their education. As things are, they are homeschooled.

“School choice has been such an amazing opportunity for my family,” Tusken said.

The Frontier Institute supports parental choice in education.

“We can put in our Christian values into their their education since we can’t afford private school,” Tusken said. “So we chose to homeschool so that we could build those things into their into their worldview.”

“Why do we celebrate all those different aspects of education?” Jeff Laszloffy, Montana Family Foundation president, said. “We celebrate them because every child learns differently.”

According to Laszloffy, the president of the Montana Family Foundation, other states have more alternatives for school choice than Montana has.

Fifteen percent of children in the country are not enrolled in public schools.

A slightly different picture is presented by for Montana, where 91% of pupils attend public schools, 5% attend private schools, and 4% are homeschooled.

“What we see is strong uptake at the beginning all the kids that are struggling in whatever setting they’re in now, find a place that fits and then and then the number of kids moving from one setting to another begins to taper off,” Laszloffy said.

However, fresh choices are appearing. Elsie Arntzen, the superintendent of public instruction, also gave a speech at the event. Three Billings-based charter schools were among the 19 new charter schools whose applications were accepted by Montana’s Board of Public Education in the same month.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a brick public school, or a private school, or a Christian school or your kitchen table,” said Arntzen, a Republican. “It’s about learning.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities that we’re going to have here in our state moving forward with new options options,” said Tusken.


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