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An Important Victory For Montana’s School Choice Program

In April, a Montana court ruled that the state Department of Revenue cannot exclude children who attend religious schools from receiving scholarships under Montana’s new tax-credit scholarship program. This ruling restores the program to the way the Legislature intended—by allowing families to apply for scholarships to attend the school of their choice. The court said the injunction will stay in place “until further order.”

Montana’s tax-credit scholarship program was enacted in May 2015 and provides a modest tax credit (up to $150 annually) to individuals and businesses that donate to private scholarship organizations. Those scholarship organizations then use the donations to give scholarships to families who want to send their children to private schools. The Department of Revenue claimed it had the authority to exclude families attending religious schools from the program. IJ quickly jumped in to protect it.

IJ client Kendra Espinoza, pictured above, was especially grateful for this victory. Last year, Kendra took on a second job cleaning houses in order to send her two daughters to Stillwater Christian School after they were bullied and neglected in public school. Now her girls are thriving at Stillwater. Kendra hopes the program will help her keep her girls at Stillwater. In the meantime, IJ will continue litigating the case to ensure the program stays put.

Erica Smith is an IJ attorney.

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