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Please find below updates on the more recent bills that we have highlighted for you-or asked you to act on-in the past few weeks.

SB 291 and SB 292 are two anti-education levy bills that make it much more difficult for school district’s to pass needed levies. They were both heard in Senate Taxation on February 15th. Since they don’t have fiscal notes, they must pass out of committee and the full house floor by Friday, February 3 or they will die.

HB 393 gave vouchers to students with special needs and has both a fiscal note and a legal note attached. It passed out of the House Education Committee but is not yet scheduled for the floor. It will have to go to appropriations before moving forward.

HB 252 is the bill that would have provided mental health screening for students. Despite herculean efforts by many it did not pass the House.

SB 235 is that extraordinary bill that would have prohibited science teachers from teaching science. It failed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee.

HB 352 would provide early literacy interventions. It passed out of House Education almost unanimously and is headed to the floor with a new fiscal note.

HB 549 and HB 562 both chart paths for establishing charter schools (even though a pathway already exists in our state school accreditation standards) and both were heard in House Education on 20 February. Since neither bill has a fiscal note attached, they must be passed out of committee and off the floor to stay alive.

HB 450 would give protections to students who use physical violence in “self-defense.” It passed out of the Education Committee 7-6 and we will hope it does not pass off the House floor. There are many questionable parts of this bill; overruling local control and setting students up for bullying are two.

The first week of the 2023 Legislative session is behind us and support for public education is enjoying the honeymoon period.

House Education has heard four (good) bills and none had any opponents. The most important, HB15 to “Implement K-12 Inflation,” was heard Monday. This is the bill that provides basic funding for our public schools and several proponents spoke of their appreciation for the early introduction of HB15 so that school districts could plan their budgets. There have been sessions when the school funding bill was not a priority.

It was a brief hearing and should move along quickly in the process. We will keep you posted.

Montana's 67th Legislative Assembly is well underway, and the House and Senate are full of elected officials who wish to privatize our public school system, publicly fund private charter schools, provide vouchers, scale back public services that assist our most vulnerable students, and decrease support for our public school educators.

Public education is the cornerstone of every Montana community and every child is entitled to a thriving public school. Diverting public money to private for-profit institutions starves public schools of vital resources.

We, like most Montanans, firmly believe public funds belong in public schools, which are open to all children, governed by a locally elected school board, and accountable to the Board of Public Education.

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