Montana Public Radio

Montana Office of Public Instruction

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Enrollment in public schools across the state compared to last year is down roughly 3,300 students, according to state education officials. District administrators and education advocates say many of those students are now being homeschooled. The decline in enrollment could hit school budgets now and in the future.

Missoula's Hellgate High School
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Melissa Romano, the Democrat running for to lead Montana’s K-12 public school system criticized the current school superintendent's handling of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds. 

Melissa Romano and Republican incumbent Elsie Artnzen disagree over whether or not the state should have followed a now defunct federal rule that led to potentially $800,000 that was meant for public schools instead going to private and home schools across Montana.

The achievement gap in K-12 schools between Montana’s American Indian students and their non-Native counterparts has not improved over the past two years. That’s according to preliminary data from a report due to be released by state education officials in late October.

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Nine million dollars in federal grants coming into Montana is aimed at bolstering mental health services for students and their families. The grant announcement Monday comes as schools are beginning to understand how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting students’ mental health.

Public school students in Montana may miss out on roughly $800,000 in federal aid for laptops, masks and educational services amid the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to a calculation from state education officials after the U.S. Department of Education’s plan for sharing emergency aid with private and home schools was thrown out in court.

Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen says Gov. Steve Bullock has not included her office in discussions about the state’s coronavirus response involving education.

Hours after Gov. Bullock announced an update on relief dollars for K-12 schools, Superintendent Arntzen, who is running for reelection, criticized the governor in a tweet.

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The Governor’s Office and the Office of Public Instruction put out two separate plans earlier this month providing guidance to school districts as they try to hash out what K-12 education might look like in the fall. Districts say both plans are by and large the same, but lack some specifics.

Two separate reopening guides for Montana schools were released on Thursday, one from the governor’s office and the other from the state’s office of public instruction. Neither document is an order, but were presented as ideas for schools to consider when reopening.

Montana’s K-12 schools shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s still unclear exactly how they plan to reopen for students this fall.

U.S. Supreme Court
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The Montana Supreme Court discriminated against religious schools when it invalidated a tax credit program that supported school choice, according to a ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

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The U.S. Department of Education is changing its guidance on how federal coronavirus relief funding for public school districts will be shared with private schools.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will send roughly $41 million to Montana’s public schools. Earlier this year, there was debate about how much of that money federal education officials wanted to pass through public districts to support private schools.

That decision is now up to school districts.

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