A recent letter printed in local newspapers contains false comments claiming that HB 279 rigged the system for the wealthiest Montanans to defund public schools. If the letter writer had read HB 279, he would know that it is a revision of past legislation that helped private and public schools. It revises laws related to the tax credit Scholarship Program and the Innovative Educational Program. The scholarship program helps students who would do much better in a private school, but do not have the money for tuition. Many of these students end up being home schooled. The purpose of the school scholarship program is to provide parental and student choice in education. Public schools’ benefit because they can secure funds for innovative educational programs and technology deficiencies.
Funds for public schools comes from local property taxes and levies that include parents of students in private schools and home schoolers who own property. Also, the teachers’ union works in Helena to secure public-school funds through legislation.
Private schools and home schoolers do help Montana property taxpayers by reducing taxes because the average per pupil spending in Montana public schools is $11,762 per year, which is in the upper 50% of states in national ranking in the amount spent per student (2018 data). Based on this figure, parents of students who attend Stillwater Christian School with approximately 400 students save the taxpayers $4,704,800 each year.
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