Expanding Choice

School choice enjoys strong support among Montana residents, and of choice options, tax credits enjoy the greatest level of popularity. Such programs grant tax credits to taxpayers who donate to nonprofit organizations that give scholarships to students. These scholarships may then be used at both public and private (including religious) schools thereby putting previously unaffordable educational options in reach. Tax credit scholarships, like other forms of school choice, allow parents, particularly low- and middle-income families, to choose from a broader array of pre-K through 12 schooling options than currently exist.

In February 2009, a bill was introduced in the State Legislature to do just that for Montana’s low- and middle-income families (income of up to $58,830 for a family of four) as well as for foster children—some of Montana’s most vulnerable citizens. The new education tax credit program would reduce income taxes for individuals and corporations that donate to scholarship funds. The scholarships would provide an average of $2,000 per student for attendance at an accredited private school or $500 for transportation to public schools outside of the student’s district.

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