Charter schools proposal gets debate in Montana Senate

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana Senate has revived a charter schools bill that would sidestep the authority of school boards by establishing a new statewide commission.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, a Republican from Stevensville, won the barest support needed to move the bill out of the chamber's Education Committee. Representatives voted 26-24 Thursday to give the matter a hearing on the Senate floor.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy sponsored the bill, which the House approved in February.

Windy Boy says the measure is needed to give communities, especially those across tribal lands, more flexibility and choice in education.

But critics worry that the proposal could siphon money from the public school system and would not have the same level of standards and accountability required of traditional public schools.

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