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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen
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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued an opinion May 27 claiming public schools are prohibited by state and federal law from teaching certain aspects of critical race theory, which says systemic racism is ingrained in American life and law. Some say the opinion is largely symbolic, as other leaders in Republican-controlled states condemn critical race theory.

School hallway.
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Gov. Greg Gianforte Wednesday signed into law a significant increase to a tax credit for donors to school choice scholarship programs. The program benefits both public and private schools, but the bill eases restrictions on what private schools are required to do in order to receive funding. 

Montana produce sits on a table at the Reimagining School Lunch test kitchen on March 28th, 2021. The recipe testers use local ingredients like these to test recipes for potential school lunch meals.
Megan Myscofski / Montana Public Radio

Farmers and educators in the Bitterroot Valley are researching how to make a healthier and more local school lunch. The two-year research project in Hamilton wraps up this spring.

An empty classsroom.
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Republicans in the Montana House of Representatives have advanced a bill to increase the tax credit residents can claim for donations that help pay student tuition at private schools. The proposal follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Montana can’t exclude religious schools from the tax credit program.

The Montana House Thursday advanced a bill that would let special needs students attend private schools using public education dollars.

Under House Bill 329, public money tied to a special needs child would go into a savings account to reimburse parents on private education costs.

Public Schools To Receive COVID-19 Relief Dollars

Mar 12, 2021

Montana K through 12 public schools will receive an estimated $382 million in federal funds from the most recent COVID-19 relief package, according to an estimate from the Montana Governor's Office of Budget and Program Planning.

Additionally, the Montana Office of Public Instruction says non-public schools in Montana will receive $12.8 million from that same relief bill.

Pres. Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act, which appropriates about $122.7 billion nationally to help schools reopen.

Montana Education Officials announced Thursday that a federal standardized test used to assess student progress across the country has been canceled this spring. That leaves the state with few options to monitor student learning progress amid the pandemic. 

An empty classsroom.
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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
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

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.

Empty school classroom
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Well over a month into the school year, some public school districts are making decisions about whether they should move toward more in-person education, while those that are dealing with outbreaks are temporarily shutting their doors. Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton is here to talk about how districts are making these decisions.

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