NewsLocal News


National School Choice Week draws supporters to rally in Billings

Screenshot 2024-01-26 at 8.41.19 PM.png
Posted at 9:30 PM, Jan 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 23:30:57-05

Proponents of charter schools held a rally Friday in Billings hoping to increase opportunities for students and expressed concern about their kids' education.

It's National School Choice Week, and the group, which included area students, rallied on the Yellowstone County courthouse lawn.

Speakers talked about how Montana is behind the rest of the country but also some things are moving in the direction to give families more choice.

Montana is set to open its first state-approved charter schools, including in Billings, thanks to new laws approved by the Legislature in 2023.
Supporters highlighted their value at the event.

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

Tusken has two children whose education included public schools and charter school. They are currently homeschooled.

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

The Frontier Institute advocates for school choice.

"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."

Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, said other states are ahead of Montana when it comes to school choice options.

Nationwide,15 percent of children are receiving their education outside the public school system.

The website shows a little less in Montana with 91 percent of students attending public schools, 5 percent are in private schools, and 4 percent 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.

But new options are emerging. Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen also spoke at the rally. Just as month Montana's Board of Public Education approved applications for 19 new charter schools across the state, including three in Billings.

"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.