A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS AS A MEANS OF PROVIDING ADDITIONAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES; DEFINING "PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL"; PROVIDING FOR AUTONOMY OF PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS THROUGH EXEMPTION FROM TITLE 20, MCA; ESTABLISHING A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL COMMISSION; ESTABLISHING CHARTER AUTHORIZERS FOR OVERSEEING PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS; PROVIDING AN OVERSIGHT FEE FOR CHARTER AUTHORIZERS; PROVIDING FOR the CREATION, RENEWAL, REVOCATION, AND CLOSURE OF PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS; PROVIDING FOR PERFORMANCE MEASURES FOR PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS; EXEMPTING PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL TEACHERS FROM STATE CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS; PROVIDING FOR FUNDING OF PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS; ESTABLISHING THE PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNT; providing an appropriation; AMENDING SECTIONS 15-6-201, 20-1-101, 20-4-101, 20-5-323, 61-3-321, AND 61-10-214, MCA; and PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE and AN APPLICABILITY DATE."
NEW SECTION. Section 2. Public charter schools -- legislative findings and intent. (1) The legislature finds, pursuant to the authority and duties provided in Article X, section 1(3), of the Montana constitution, that:
(2) It is the legislature's intent, pursuant to the authority and duties provided in Article X, section 1(3), of the Montana constitution, to create other public educational programs and institutions through charter schools. The purposes are to:
(d) advance Montana's commitment to the preservation of American Indian cultural identity, pursuant to Article X, section 1(2), of the Montana constitution and to eliminate the American Indian achievement gap by encouraging participation in the charter school program by students, parents, and school districts in Indian country.
(2) "Authorizer" means an entity authorized under [sections 1 through 17] to review proposals, determine whether to approve proposals for entering into a charter contract, enter into charter contracts with applicants, oversee public charter schools, and determine whether to renew or revoke charter contracts.
(3) "Charter contract" means a fixed-term, renewable contract between a public charter school and an authorizer that outlines the roles, powers, responsibilities, and performance expectations for each party to the contract.
(5) "Education service provider" means a for-profit education management organization, nonprofit charter management organization, school design provider, or other partner entity with which a public charter school intends to contract for educational design, implementation, or comprehensive management.
NEW SECTION. Section 4. Public charter school commission -- creation -- appointments. (1) There is an independent state public charter school commission with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority.
(5) Members appointed to the commission must collectively possess substantial experience and expertise in public and nonprofit governance, management and finance, public school leadership, assessment, curriculum, instruction, and public education law. All members of the commission must have a demonstrated understanding of and commitment to charter schools as a strategy for strengthening public education.
(b) All terms after the initial term must be for 3 years. Appointment to the initial terms must be made no later than 60 days following [the effective date of this act]. If any of the appointing authorities fails to make the appointments, the remaining appointing authorities may make the remaining appointments.
(8) A member of the commission may be removed by a majority vote of the commission for any cause that renders the member unable or unfit to discharge the duties of the office, including but not limited to failure to approve an authorizer without just cause and interference with the functions of the commission as set forth in [sections 1 through 17]. Whenever a vacancy on the commission exists, the original appointing authority shall appoint a member for the remaining portion of the term consistent with the requirements of subsections (3) and (4).
(9) The commission shall operate with dedicated resources and hire staff qualified to execute the day-to-day responsibilities of public charter school authorizing in accordance with [sections 1 through 17].
(10) The commission is authorized to receive and expend gifts and donations of any kind from any private entity. The gifts and donations may not require conditions that do not comport with the purposes of [sections 1 through 17]. Gifts and donations under this subsection must be deposited in the public charter school account pursuant to [section 17] and may be used by the commission for commission operations or distributed to public charter schools at the discretion of the commission.
(b) The commission shall hire staff for the commission, except for any support staff provided by the board of public education for centralized services such as payroll, human resources, accounting, information technology, or other services determined by the commission and the board to be more efficiently provided by the board.
(c) Commission budget requests prepared and presented to the legislature and the governor in accordance with 17-7-111 must be prepared and presented independently of the board of public education. However, nothing in this subsection (11)(c) prohibits the board from providing administrative support for the budgeting process and including the budget requests in appropriate sections of the board's budget requests for administratively attached agencies.
NEW SECTION. Section 5. Authorizers. (1) The state public charter school commission created under [section 4] may authorize public charter schools in the state. The commission shall perform the functions of public charter school authorizers under [sections 1 through 17].
(b) If the commission determines that the local school board fulfills the requirements of an authorizer, the commission shall, within 60 days of receipt of a local school board's application, approve the local school board as an authorizer.
(3) Governing bodies of accredited public or private postsecondary institutions, including community colleges, technical colleges, tribal colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities, may apply to the commission for statewide, regional, or local chartering authority pursuant to this section.
(4) Nonpublic sectarian or religious organizations and any other charitable organizations that, in their federal Internal Revenue Service Form 1023, Part IV under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3), describe activities indicating a religious purpose are not eligible to become authorizers.
(5) (a) The commission shall establish the annual application and approval process, including cycles and deadlines during the fiscal year, for all entities eligible to apply for chartering authority as set forth in this section.
(b) By March 1 of each year, the commission shall make available information and guidelines for all eligible entities concerning the opportunity to apply for chartering authority under [sections 1 through 17].
(iii) a plan supporting the entity's strategic vision and an explanation of the entity's budget and personnel capacity and commitment to execute the duties of charter authorizing in accordance with [sections 1 through 17];
(v) a description or outline of the performance framework the entity will use to guide the establishment of a charter contract and for ongoing oversight and evaluation of public charter schools consistent with the requirements of [sections 1 through 17];
(vii) a statement of assurance that the entity commits to serving as a charter authorizer in fulfillment of the expectations, spirit, and intent of [sections 1 through 17] and will fully participate in any authorizer training provided or required by the commission; and
(6) (a) Within 60 days of receipt of the application, the commission shall determine whether to approve an application based on a review of the documentation provided in subsection (5) and the quality of the application. The commission shall provide a letter to the entity either confirming or denying acceptance as an authorizer.
(b) Within 30 days of approval of an application for charter authorizing, the commission and the approved authorizer shall execute a renewable authorizing contract. The initial authorizing contract term is 6 years.
(8) When approved, the authorizer continues from year to year during the term of the contract as long as the authorizer fulfills all charter-authorizing duties and expectations set forth in [sections 1 through 17] and remains an authorizer in good standing with the commission.
(4) An authorizer shall develop, carry out, and maintain chartering policies and practices consistent with nationally recognized principles and standards for charter authorizing in all major areas of authorizing responsibility, including:
(b) the academic and financial performance of all operating public charter schools overseen by the authorizer, according to the performance expectations for public charter schools set forth in [sections 1 through 17];
(c) the status of the authorizer's public charter school portfolio, identifying all public charter schools approved but not yet open, operating, renewed, transferred, revoked, not renewed, voluntarily closed, or never opened;
(d) the authorizing functions provided by the authorizer to the public charter schools under its direction, including the authorizer's operating costs and expenses detailed in annual audited financial statements that conform with generally accepted accounting principles; and
(e) the services purchased from the authorizer by a public charter school under the authorizer's direction, including an itemized accounting of the actual costs of these services, as required in [section 7].
(7) An employee, trustee, agent, or representative of an authorizer may not simultaneously serve as an employee, trustee, agent, representative, vendor, or contractor of a public charter school authorized by that entity.
(8) A governmental unit or other entity, other than those expressly granted chartering authority as set forth in [sections 1 through 17], may not assume any charter-authorizing function or duty in any form unless expressly allowed by law.
NEW SECTION. Section 7. Duties of commission for oversight of authorizer. (1) The commission shall establish a statewide formula for authorizer funding to be applied uniformly to every authorizer in the state. Authorizer funding is financed through an oversight fee.
(2) The oversight fee must be calculated as a uniform percentage of the state funding allocated to each public charter school and is to be paid from the public charter school's budget share of the per-pupil funding, not to exceed 3% of each public charter school's state funding in a single school year.
(3) The commission may establish a sliding scale for authorizer funding, with the funding percentage decreasing after the authorizer has achieved a certain threshold after a certain number of years of authorizing, after a certain number of schools have been authorized, or for other reasons determined at the discretion of the commission.
(4) An authorizer's oversight fee may not include any costs incurred in delivering services that a public charter school may purchase at its discretion from the authorizer. The authorizer shall use the funding provided under this section exclusively for the purpose of fulfilling authorizing obligations in accordance with [sections 1 through 17].
(6) The commission shall annually review the effectiveness of the state formula for authorizer funding and shall adjust the formula if necessary to maximize public benefit and strengthen the implementation of [sections 1 through 17].
(8) Persistently unsatisfactory performance of an authorizer's portfolio of public charter schools, a pattern of well-founded complaints about the authorizer or its public charter schools, or other objective circumstances may trigger a special review by the commission.
(10) If at any time the commission finds that an authorizer is not in compliance with an existing charter contract, its authorizing contract with the commission, or the requirements of authorizers under [sections 1 through 17], the commission shall notify the authorizer in writing of the identified problems and shall provide the authorizer reasonable opportunity to respond and remedy the problems.
(11) If an authorizer fails to respond and remedy the problems identified by the commission, the commission shall notify the authorizer, within a reasonable amount of time under the circumstances, that it intends to revoke the authorizer's chartering authority unless the authorizer demonstrates a timely and satisfactory remedy for the violation or deficiencies.
(12) In the event of revocation of an authorizer's chartering authority, the commission shall manage the timely and orderly transfer of each charter contract held by that authorizer to another authorizer in the state, with the mutual agreement of each affected public charter school and proposed new authorizer. The new authorizer shall assume the existing charter contract for the remainder of the charter term.
(13) On or before December 1 of each year, beginning in the first year that public charter schools have been in operation for a full school year, the commission shall issue to the board of public education, the education and local government interim committee, and the public an annual report on the state's public charter schools that includes data from the annual reports submitted by every authorizer, as well as any additional relevant data compiled by the commission, for the school year ending in the preceding calendar year. The annual report must include:
(a) a comparison of the performance of public charter school students with the performance of academically, ethnically, and economically comparable groups of students in noncharter public schools; and
(b) the commission's assessment of the successes, challenges, and areas for improvement in meeting the purposes of [sections 1 through 17], including the commission's assessment of the sufficiency of funding for public charter schools, the efficacy of the state formula for authorizer funding, and any suggested changes in state law or policy necessary to strengthen the state's public charter schools.
NEW SECTION. Section 8. Purchase of services by charter school. (1) With the exception of oversight services as required by [section 7], a public charter school may not be required to purchase services from the public charter school's authorizer as an express or implied condition of charter approval or of executing a charter contract.
(2) A public charter school may choose to purchase services from its authorizer. In that event, the public charter school and authorizer shall execute an annual service contract, separate from the charter contract, stating the parties' mutual agreement concerning any services to be provided by the authorizer and any service fees to be charged to the public charter school. An authorizer may not charge more than market rates for services provided to a public charter school.
NEW SECTION. Section 9. Charter school proposal process -- request for proposal -- charter term. (1) To solicit, encourage, and guide the development of public charter schools, every authorizer operating under [sections 1 through 17] shall issue and broadly publicize a request for proposal by June 1 of each year. The content and dissemination of the request for proposal must be consistent with the purposes and requirements of [sections 1 through 17].
(2) Each authorizer's request for proposal must present the authorizer's strategic vision for chartering, including a clear statement of any preferences the authorizer wishes to grant to proposals that help at-risk students.
(3) A request for proposal must include or otherwise direct applicants to the performance framework that the authorizer has developed for public charter school oversight and evaluation in accordance with [section 7].
(5) A request for proposal must include clear and detailed questions as well as guidelines concerning the format and content essential for applicants to demonstrate the capacities necessary to establish and operate a successful public charter school.
(k) the proposed public charter school's plans for identifying and successfully serving students with disabilities, students who are English language learners, students who are academically challenged, and gifted students, including but not limited to compliance with applicable laws and regulations;
(o) an organizational chart that clearly presents the proposed public charter school's organizational structure, including lines of authority and reporting between the governing board, staff, related bodies such as advisory bodies or parent and teacher councils, and external organizations that will play a role in managing the school;
(p) a clear description of the roles and responsibilities for the governing board, the proposed public charter school's leadership and management team, and other entities shown in the organizational chart;
(7) In the case of a proposal to establish a public charter school by converting an existing noncharter public school to public charter school status, a request for proposal must also require the applicants to demonstrate support for the proposed public charter school conversion by a petition signed by a majority of teachers or a majority of the local school board and a petition signed by a majority of parents of students in the existing noncharter public school.
(8) In the case of a proposal to establish a virtual public charter school, a request for proposal must additionally require the applicants to describe the proposed school's system of course credits and how the school will:
(9) In the case of a proposed public charter school that intends to contract with an education service provider for substantial educational services, management services, or both, a request for proposal must additionally require the applicants to:
(a) provide evidence of the education service provider's success in serving student populations similar to the targeted population, including demonstrated academic achievement as well as successful management of nonacademic school functions if applicable;
(10) In the case of a public charter school proposal from an applicant that currently operates one or more schools in any state or nation, a request for proposal must additionally require the applicant to provide evidence of past performance and current capacity for growth.
(11) If a public charter school proposal does not contain the elements required in this section, the authorizer may consider the proposal incomplete and return the proposal to the applicant without the process described in subsection (12).
(12) In reviewing and evaluating charter proposals, authorizers shall employ procedures, practices, and criteria consistent with nationally recognized principles and standards for charter authorizing. The proposal review process must include thorough evaluation of each written charter proposal, an in-person interview with the applicant group, and an opportunity in a public forum for local residents to learn about and provide input on each proposal.
(a) grant charters only to applicants that have demonstrated competence in each element of the authorizer's published approval criteria and are likely to open and operate a successful public charter school;
(14) (a) The authorizer shall approve or deny the charter proposal within 60 days after the filing of a charter proposal, except the commission has up to 120 days if more than three proposals have been submitted to the commission within 30 days. The commission shall notify the applicant of the expected timeline for approval or denial.
(d) For any charter denial, the authorizer shall clearly state for the public record the reasons for denial. A denied applicant may subsequently reapply to that authorizer or apply to any other authorizer in the state.
(e) Within 10 days of taking action to approve or deny a charter proposal, the authorizer shall report its decision to the commission. The authorizer shall provide a copy of the report to the applicant at the same time that the report is submitted to the commission. The report must include a copy of the resolution of the authorizer's governing body setting forth the action taken and reasons for the decision and providing assurances of compliance with all of the procedural requirements and proposal elements set forth in this section.
NEW SECTION. Section 10. Charter contract -- terms. (1) An initial charter must be granted for a term of 5 operating years, commencing on the public charter school's first day of operation. An approved public charter school may delay its opening for 1 school year to plan and prepare for the school's opening. If the school requires an opening delay of more than 1 school year, the school shall request an extension from its authorizer. The authorizer may grant or deny the extension depending on the particular school's circumstances.
(2) Within 45 days of approval of a charter proposal, the authorizer and the governing board of the approved public charter school shall execute a charter contract that clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance expectations and measures by which the public charter school will be judged and the administrative relationship between the authorizer and the public charter school, including each party's rights and duties.
(5) The charter contract must be signed by the president of the authorizer's governing body and the president of the public charter school's governing board. Within 10 days of executing a charter contract, the authorizer shall submit to the commission written notification of the charter contract execution, including a copy of the executed charter contract and any attachments.
(7) Authorizers may establish reasonable preopening requirements or conditions to monitor the startup progress of a newly approved public charter school to ensure that the school is prepared to open smoothly on the date agreed and to ensure that each school meets all building, health, safety, insurance, and other legal requirements for school opening.
(2) A noncharter public school converting to a public charter school shall adopt and maintain a policy giving enrollment preference to students who reside within the former attendance area of that public school.
(3) (a) A public charter school shall give enrollment preference to students who were enrolled in the public charter school the previous school year and to siblings of students already enrolled in the public charter school. An enrollment preference for returning students excludes those students from entering into a lottery.
(b) A public charter school may give enrollment preference to children of a public charter school's governing board and full-time employees, limited to no more than 10% of the school's total student population.
(4) This section does not preclude the formation of a public charter school for the purpose of serving students with disabilities, students of the same gender, students who pose a sufficiently severe disciplinary problem to warrant a specific educational program, or students who are at risk of academic failure. If capacity is insufficient to enroll all students who wish to attend a school, the public charter school shall select students through a lottery.
(5) If a student who was previously enrolled in a public charter school enrolls in any other public school in this state, the student's new school shall accept credits earned by the student in courses or instructional programs at the public charter school.
(6) A school district shall provide or publicize to parents and the general public information about public charter schools as an enrollment option within the district to the same extent and through the same means that the district provides and publicizes information about noncharter public schools in the district.
(7) An authorizer may not restrict the number of students a public charter school may enroll. The capacity of the public charter school must be determined annually by its governing board in conjunction with the authorizer and in consideration of the public charter school's ability to facilitate the academic success of its students, to achieve the objectives specified in the charter contract, and to ensure that its student enrollment does not exceed the capacity of its facility or site.
NEW SECTION. Section 12. Charter school performance and renewal. (1) The performance provisions within the charter contract must be based on a performance framework that clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance indicators, measures, and metrics that will guide the authorizer's evaluations of each public charter school. The performance framework must include indicators, measures, and metrics for, at a minimum:
(3) (a) The contract performance framework must allow the inclusion, with the authorizer's approval, of additional rigorous, valid, and reliable indicators proposed by a public charter school to augment external evaluations of its performance that are consistent with the purposes of [sections 1 through 17].
(c) Multiple schools operating under a single charter contract or overseen by a single governing board shall report their performance as separate, individual schools, and each school must be held independently accountable for its performance.
(4) (a) An authorizer shall monitor the performance and legal compliance of the public charter schools it oversees, including collecting and analyzing data to support ongoing evaluation according to the charter contract. Every authorizer has the authority to conduct or require oversight activities that do not unduly inhibit the autonomy granted to public charter schools but that enable the authorizer to fulfill its responsibilities under [sections 1 through 17], including conducting appropriate inquiries and investigations consistent with the intent of [sections 1 through 17], and to adhere to the terms of the charter contract.
(b) Each authorizer shall annually publish and provide as part of its annual report to the commission a performance report for each public charter school it oversees, within the performance framework set forth in the charter contract and [section 10]. The authorizer may require each public charter school it oversees to submit an annual report to assist the authorizer in gathering complete information about each school, consistent with the performance framework.
(c) In the event that a public charter school's performance or legal compliance appears unsatisfactory, the authorizer shall promptly notify the public charter school of the perceived problem and provide reasonable opportunity for the school to remedy the problem.
(d) An authorizer may take appropriate corrective action or exercise sanctions short of revocation in response to apparent deficiencies in public charter school performance or legal compliance. The action or sanctions may include, if warranted, requiring a public charter school to develop and execute a corrective action plan within a specified timeframe.
(5) (a) A charter may be renewed for successive 5-year terms, although the authorizer may vary the term based on the performance, demonstrated capacities, and particular circumstances of each public charter school. An authorizer may grant renewal with specific conditions for necessary improvement to a public charter school.
(b) No later than June 30 of each year, the authorizer shall issue a public charter school performance report and charter renewal application guide to any public charter school whose charter will expire the following year. The performance report must summarize the public charter school's performance record to date, based on the data required by [sections 1 through 17] and the charter contract, and must provide notice of any weaknesses or concerns perceived by the authorizer concerning the public charter school that may jeopardize renewal if not promptly rectified. The public charter school shall respond to the performance report and submit any corrections or clarifications within 90 days.
(7) The renewal application guide must include or refer explicitly to the criteria that will guide the authorizer's renewal decisions, based on the performance framework set forth in the charter contract and consistent with [sections 1 through 17].
(8) (a) No later than February 1 of each year, the governing board of a public charter school seeking renewal shall submit a renewal application to the charter authorizer pursuant to the renewal application guide issued by the authorizer. The authorizer shall rule by resolution on the renewal application no later than 30 days after the filing of the renewal application.
NEW SECTION. Section 13. Charter contract revocation and school closure or charter contract nonrenewal. (1) A charter contract may be subject to nonrenewal or revocation if the authorizer determines that the public charter school:
(a) committed a material and substantial violation of any of the terms, conditions, standards, or procedures required under [sections 1 through 17] or the charter contract and from which the public charter school was not exempted;
(c) provide the charter holders an opportunity to submit documents and testimony at a hearing to challenge the rationale for the closure recommendation and in support of the continuation of the school;
(4) Within 10 days of taking action to renew, not renew, or revoke a charter, the authorizer shall report to the commission the action taken and at the same time shall provide a copy of the report to the public charter school. The report must include a copy of the resolution of the authorizer's governing body setting forth the action taken and reasons for the decision and providing assurances of compliance with all the requirements set forth in [sections 1 through 17]. The authorizer's decision is appealable to the commission in writing within 30 days of the commission's receipt of the authorizer's report.
(5) (a) Prior to a public charter school closure, an authorizer shall develop a public charter school closure protocol to ensure timely notification to parents, orderly transition of students and student records to new schools, and proper disposition of school funds, property, and assets in accordance with the requirements of [sections 1 through 17]. The protocol must specify responsible parties, transition and closure timelines, and a delineation of the respective duties of the public charter school and the authorizer.
(c) In the event of a public charter school closure for any reason, the nonrestricted distributable assets of the public charter school must be distributed first to satisfy outstanding payroll obligations for employees of the public charter school, then to creditors of the public charter school, then to public school districts to which students previously attending the closed charter school are returning on a prorated per-pupil basis, and then to the state general fund. If the assets of the public charter school are insufficient to pay all obligations, the prioritization of the distribution of assets may be determined by a court of law.
(d) If a closing public charter school was converted from an existing noncharter public school, the closing public charter school is not responsible for any financial obligation or debt of the previously existing noncharter public school unless the public charter school assumed the debt or obligation at the time of conversion.
(6) Transfer of a charter contract, and of oversight of that public charter school from one authorizer to another before the expiration of the charter term, may occur only if the authorizer violates the provisions of [section 6] or by special petition to the commission by a public charter school or its authorizer. The commission shall consider a petition for transfer on a case-by-case basis and may grant transfer requests in response to special circumstances and to evidence that the transfer would serve the best interests of the public charter school's students.
(b) A public charter school is subject to all federal laws and authorities as provided in [sections 1 through 17] or arranged by charter contract with the public charter school's authorizer consistent with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
(c) Except as provided in [sections 1 through 17], a public charter school is not subject to the provisions of Title 20 or any state or local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure relating to noncharter public schools within an applicable local school district.
(d) A single governing board may hold one or more charter contracts. A charter contract may consist of one or more schools, to the extent approved by the authorizer and consistent with applicable law. Each public charter school that is part of a charter contract is separate and distinct from any other public charter school.
(e) The initial governing board of a public charter school shall ensure an elected governing board is in place within 12 months of the school commencing operations. The governing board must be elected by a process outlined in the charter school bylaws. The election process must include the following:
(2) A public charter school may not be created within the geographical boundaries of a third-class elementary district, as described in 20-6-201, or a third-class high school district, as described in 20-6-301, unless:
(3) A public charter school shall function as a local educational agency. A public charter school is responsible for meeting the requirements of a local educational agency under applicable federal, state, and local laws, including those relating to special education.
(4) A public charter school is primarily responsible for special education at the school, including identification and service provisions, and is responsible for meeting the needs of enrolled students with disabilities. If a student's individualized education program team determines that a student's needs are so profound that they cannot be met in the public charter school and that the public charter school cannot provide a free, appropriate public education to that student, the student's district of residence shall place the student in a more appropriate setting.
(b) The powers, obligations, and responsibilities set forth in the charter contract may not be delegated or assigned by either party except as otherwise specifically provided in [sections 1 through 17].
(7) (a) A public charter school is subject to the same civil rights, health, and safety requirements applicable to other public schools in the state except as otherwise specifically provided in [sections 1 through 17].
(d) Public charter school employees may not be required to be members of any existing collective bargaining agreement between a school district and its employees. However, a public charter school may not interfere with laws and other applicable rules protecting the rights of employees to organize and to be free from discrimination.
(2) If a district that consists of only one school desires to convert to a public charter school, this section does not apply and the district funding formula under Title 20 applies. The district shall transfer funds to the governing board of the public charter school that maintains the operational and programmatic autonomy described in [sections 1 through 17].
(6) The county treasurer of a county in which a nonresident student resides shall by the first day of each month from September through June of the school fiscal year transfer from the general fund account of the nonresident student's resident school district an amount equal to 10% of the student amount to the county treasurer of the county in which the charter school the student attends is located.
(7) For budgeting purposes, a public charter school must be considered a separate budget unit of the located school district and must have its ANB calculated separately from the other schools in the district and receive a basic entitlement calculated separately from the other schools in the district, except that a virtual public charter school receives no basic entitlement.
(a) The county treasurer shall transfer to the public charter school's account from the located school district's general fund account by the fifth day of each month from September through June of the school fiscal year an amount equal to the sum of 10% of:
(b) In addition to the amounts transferred in subsection (8)(a), the county treasurer shall by the fifth day of each month from September through June of the school fiscal year transfer to the public charter school's account any nonresident student amount transferred from the county treasurer of a county in which a nonresident student resides as provided in subsection (6).
(10) A public charter school may obligate the public charter school to indebtedness and is solely responsible for those debts. A public charter school is not responsible for any debt service obligations that exist in the school district in which the public charter school is located.
(11) Nothing in [sections 1 through 17] may be construed to prohibit any person or organization from providing funding or other assistance for the establishment or operation of a public charter school. The governing board of a public charter school is authorized to accept gifts or donations of any kind made to the public charter school and to expend or use the gifts or donations in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the donor. A gift or donation may not be accepted if the gift or donation is subject to a condition that is contrary to any provision of law or term of the charter contract.
(12) Money received by a public charter school from any source and remaining in the public charter school's accounts at the end of a budget year must remain in the public charter school's accounts for use by the public charter school in subsequent years.
(d) "Student amount" means the dollar amount equal to the adopted general fund budget of a student's resident school district minus any basic entitlement amounts then divided by the number of pupils on which that budget was based.
NEW SECTION. Section 16. Public charter school access to district facilities and land. (1) A public charter school has a right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed public school facility or property or an unused portion of a public school facility or property located in a school district from which the public charter school draws its students.
(2) A public charter school may negotiate and contract at or below fair market value with a school district, the governing body of a college or university or community college, or any other public entity or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of a facility for a school building.
NEW SECTION. Section 17. Public charter school account. (1) There is a special revenue account to be known as the public charter school account administered by the commission. The purpose of the account is the receipt and expenditure of gifts, grants, legacies, devises, and donations given specifically for the creation and operation of the Montana public charter school system.
(2) All donations must be from a private source and may not be expended for any purpose other than for the benefit of qualifying public charter schools as determined by the commission. A gift or donation made directly to a public charter school or schools is not prohibited by this section.
"15-6-201. Governmental, charitable, and educational categories -- exempt property. (1) The following categories of property are exempt from taxation:
(viii) subject to subsection (2), federally recognized Indian tribes in the state if the property is located entirely within the exterior boundaries of the reservation of the tribe that owns the property and the property is used exclusively by the tribe for essential government services. Essential government services are tribal government administration, fire, police, public health, education, recreation, sewer, water, pollution control, public transit, and public parks and recreational facilities.
(b) buildings and furnishings in the buildings that are owned by a church and used for actual religious worship or for residences of the clergy, not to exceed one residence for each member of the clergy, together with the land that the buildings occupy and adjacent land reasonably necessary for convenient use of the buildings, which must be identified in the application, and all land and improvements used for educational or youth recreational activities if the facilities are generally available for use by the general public but may not exceed 15 acres for a church or 1 acre for a clergy residence after subtracting any area required by zoning, building codes, or subdivision requirements;
(c) land and improvements upon the land, not to exceed 15 acres, owned by a federally recognized Indian tribe when the land has been set aside by tribal resolution and designated as sacred land to be used exclusively for religious purposes;
(e) property, not to exceed 80 acres, which must be legally described in the application for the exemption, used exclusively for educational purposes, including dormitories and food service buildings for the use of students in attendance and other structures necessary for the operation and maintenance of an educational institution that:
(f) property, of any acreage, owned by a tribal corporation created for the sole purpose of establishing schools, colleges, and universities if the property meets the requirements of subsection (1)(e);
(g) property used exclusively for nonprofit health care facilities, as defined in 50-5-101, licensed by the department of public health and human services and organized under Title 35, chapter 2 or 3. A health care facility that is not licensed by the department of public health and human services and organized under Title 35, chapter 2 or 3, is not exempt.
(i) subject to subsection (2), property that is owned or property that is leased from a federal, state, or local governmental entity by institutions of purely public charity if the property is directly used for purely public charitable purposes;
(l) motor vehicles, land, fixtures, buildings, and improvements owned by a cooperative association or nonprofit corporation organized to furnish potable water to its members or customers for uses other than the irrigation of agricultural land;
(m) the right of entry that is a property right reserved in land or received by mesne conveyance (exclusive of leasehold interests), devise, or succession to enter land with a surface title that is held by another to explore, prospect, or dig for oil, gas, coal, or minerals;
(n) (i) property that is owned and used by a corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for the care of persons with developmental disabilities, persons with mental illness, or persons with physical or mental impairments that constitute or result in substantial impediments to employment and that is not operated for gain or profit; and
(ii) subject to subsection (2)(e), property that is owned and used by an organization owning and operating facilities that are for the care of the retired, aged, or chronically ill and that are not operated for gain or profit;
(o) property owned by a nonprofit corporation that is organized to provide facilities primarily for training and practice for or competition in international sports and athletic events and that is not held or used for private or corporate gain or profit. For purposes of this subsection (1)(o), "nonprofit corporation" means an organization that is exempt from taxation under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code and incorporated and admitted under the Montana Nonprofit Corporation Act.
(p) property rented or leased to a municipality or taxing unit for less than $100 a year and that is used for public park, recreation, or landscape beautification purposes. For the purposes of this subsection (1)(p), "property" includes land but does not include buildings. The exemption must be applied for by the municipality or taxing unit, and not more than 10 acres within the municipality or taxing unit may be exempted.
(ii) a commissioned or licensed minister of a church or church denomination that ordains ministers if the person has the authority to perform substantially all the religious duties of the church or denomination;
(A) The organization offers its charitable goods or services to persons without regard to race, religion, creed, or gender and qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under the provisions of section 501(c)(3), Internal Revenue Code, as amended.
(B) The organization accomplishes its activities through absolute gratuity or grants. However, the organization may solicit or raise funds by the sale of merchandise, memberships, or tickets to public performances or entertainment or by other similar types of fundraising activities.
(ii) agricultural property owned by a purely public charity is not exempt if the agricultural property is used by the charity to produce unrelated business taxable income as that term is defined in section 512 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 512. A public charity claiming an exemption for agricultural property shall file annually with the department a copy of its federal tax return reporting any unrelated business taxable income received by the charity during the tax year, together with a statement indicating whether the exempt property was used to generate any unrelated business taxable income.
(iii) up to 15 acres of property owned by a purely public charity is exempt at the time of its purchase even if the property must be improved before it can directly be used for its intended charitable purpose. If the property is not directly used for the charitable purpose within 8 years of receiving an exemption under this section or if the property is sold or transferred before it entered direct charitable use, the exemption is revoked and the property is taxable. In addition to taxes due for the first year that the property becomes taxable, the owner of the property shall pay an amount equal to the amount of the tax due that year times the number of years that the property was tax-exempt under this section. The amount due is a lien upon the property and when collected must be distributed by the treasurer to funds and accounts in the same ratio as property tax collected on the property is distributed. At the time the exemption is granted, the department shall file a notice with the clerk and recorder in the county in which the property is located. The notice must indicate that an exemption pursuant to this section has been granted. The notice must describe the penalty for default under this section and must specify that a default under this section will create a lien on the property by operation of law. The notice must be on a form prescribed by the department.
(iv) not more than 160 acres may be exempted by a purely public charity under any exemption originally applied for after December 31, 2004. An application for exemption under this section must contain a legal description of the property for which the exemption is requested.
(d) For the purposes of subsection (1)(k), the term "public museums, art galleries, zoos, and observatories" means governmental entities or nonprofit organizations whose principal purpose is to hold property for public display or for use as a museum, art gallery, zoo, or observatory. The exempt property includes all real and personal property owned by the public museum, art gallery, zoo, or observatory that is reasonably necessary for use in connection with the public display or observatory use. Unless the property is leased for a profit to a governmental entity or nonprofit organization by an individual or for-profit organization, real and personal property owned by other persons is exempt if it is:
(e) For the purposes of facilities for the care of the retired, aged, or chronically ill under subsection (1)(n)(ii), the terms "retired" and "aged" mean an individual who satisfies the age and gross household income limitations of 15-30-2338. The property owner shall verify age and gross household income requirements on a form prescribed by the department. Applicants are subject to the false swearing penalties established in 45-7-202."
(4) "At-risk student" means any student who is affected by environmental conditions that negatively impact the student's educational performance or threaten a student's likelihood of promotion or graduation.
(5) "Average number belonging" or "ANB" means the average number of regularly enrolled, full-time pupils physically attending or receiving educational services at an offsite instructional setting from the public schools of a district.
(10) "District superintendent" means a person who holds a valid class 3 Montana teacher certificate with a superintendent's endorsement that has been issued by the superintendent of public instruction under the provisions of this title and the policies adopted by the board of public education and who has been employed by a district as a district superintendent.
(a) offer a sequence of courses that provide a pupil with the academic and technical knowledge and skills that the pupil needs to prepare for further education and for careers in the current or emerging employment sectors; and
(b) include competency-based applied learning that contributes to the academic knowledge, higher-order reasoning and problem-solving skills, work attitudes, general employability skills, technical skills, and occupation-specific skills of the pupil.
(13) (a) "Minimum aggregate hours" means the minimum hours of pupil instruction that must be conducted during the school fiscal year in accordance with 20-1-301 and includes passing time between classes.
(14) "Offsite instructional setting" means an instructional setting at a location, separate from a main school site, where a school district provides for the delivery of instruction to a student who is enrolled in the district.
(15) "Principal" means a person who holds a valid class 3 Montana teacher certificate with an applicable principal's endorsement that has been issued by the superintendent of public instruction under the provisions of this title and the policies adopted by the board of public education and who has been employed by a district as a principal. For the purposes of this title, any reference to a teacher must be construed as including a principal.
(16)(17) "Pupil" means a child who is 5 years of
age or older on or before September 10 of the year in which
the child is to enroll or has been enrolled by special permission of the board
of trustees under 20-5-101(3) but who has not
yet reached 19 years of age and who is enrolled in a school established and
maintained under the laws of the state at public
expense. For purposes of calculating the average number belonging pursuant to 20-9-311, the definition of pupil includes a person who has not
yet reached 19 years of age by September 10 of the
year and is enrolled under 20-5-101(3) in a school established and maintained under the laws of the state at public expense. (18)(19) "Qualified and effective teacher or
administrator" means an educator who is licensed and endorsed
in the areas in which the educator teaches, specializes, or serves in an
administrative capacity as established by the board
of public education. (21)(22) "School election" means a regular school
election or any election conducted by a district or community
college district for authorizing taxation, authorizing the issuance of bonds by
an elementary, high school, or K-12 district, or
accepting or rejecting any proposition that may be presented to the electorate
for decision in accordance with the provisions of
this title. (22)(23) "School food services" means a service
of providing food for the pupils of a district on a nonprofit
basis and includes any food service financially assisted through funds or
commodities provided by the United States government. (24)(25) "State board of education" means the
board composed of the board of public education and the
board of regents as specified in Article X, section 9, subsection (1), of the
Montana constitution. (29)(30) "Teacher" means a person, except a
district superintendent, who holds a valid Montana teacher
certificate that has been issued by the superintendent of public instruction
under the provisions of this title and the policies
adopted by the board of public education and who is employed by a district as a
member of its instructional, supervisory, or
administrative staff. This definition of a teacher includes a person for whom
an emergency authorization of employment has been issued
under the provisions of 20-4-111. (34)(35) "Vocational-technical education" means
vocational-technical education of vocational-technical students
that is conducted by a unit of the Montana university system, a community
college, or a tribally controlled community college,
as designated by the board of regents."
"20-4-101. System and definitions of teacher and specialist certification -- student teacher exception. (1) In order to establish a uniform system of quality education and to ensure the maintenance of professional standards, a system of teacher and specialist certification must be established and maintained under the provisions of this title and a person may not be permitted to teach in the public schools of the state until the person has obtained a teacher or specialist certificate or the district has obtained an emergency authorization of employment from the state. This requirement does not apply to a teacher in a public charter school as provided in [section 14].
(3) The certification requirement does not apply to a student teacher who is a student enrolled in an institution of higher learning approved by the board of regents of higher education for teacher training and who is jointly assigned by the institution of higher learning and the governing board of a district or a public institution to perform practice teaching in a nonsalaried status under the direction of a regularly employed and certificated teacher.
(4) A student teacher, while serving a nonsalaried internship under the supervision of a certificated teacher, must be accorded the same protection of the laws as that accorded a certificated teacher and shall, while acting as a student teacher, comply with all rules of the governing board of the district or public institution and the applicable provisions of 20-4-301 relating to the duties of teachers."
"20-5-323. Tuition and transportation rates. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2) through (5), whenever a child has approval to attend a school outside of the child's district of residence under the provisions of 20-5-320 or 20-5-321, the rate of tuition charged for a Montana resident student may not exceed 20% of the per-ANB maximum rate established in 20-9-306 for the year of attendance.
(3) The tuition rate for out-of-district placement pursuant to 20-5-321(1)(d) and (1)(e) for a student without disabilities who requires a program with costs that exceed the average district costs must be determined as the actual individual costs of providing that program according to the following:
(b) for a Montana resident student, 80% of the maximum per-ANB rate established in 20-9-306, received in the year for which the tuition charges are calculated, must be subtracted from the per-student program costs for a Montana resident student; and
(4) When a child attends a public school of another state or province, the amount of daily tuition may not be greater than the average annual cost for each student in the child's district of residence. This calculation for tuition purposes is determined by totaling all of the expenditures for all of the district budgeted funds for the preceding school fiscal year and dividing that amount by the October 1 enrollment in the preceding school fiscal year. For the purposes of this subsection, the following do not apply:
(6) The amount, if any, charged for transportation may not exceed the lesser of the average transportation cost for each student in the child's district of residence or 35 cents a mile. The average expenditures for the district transportation fund for the preceding school fiscal year must be calculated by dividing the transportation fund expenditures by the October 1 enrollment for the preceding fiscal year.
"61-3-321. Registration fees of vehicles and vessels -- certain vehicles exempt from registration fees -- disposition of fees -- definition. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, registration fees must be paid upon registration or, if applicable, renewal of registration of motor vehicles, snowmobiles, watercraft, trailers, semitrailers, and pole trailers as provided in subsections (2) through (20).
(2) (a) Except as provided in subsection (2)(b), unless a light vehicle is permanently registered under 61-3-562, the annual registration fee for light vehicles, trucks, and buses that weigh 1 ton or less and for logging trucks that weigh 1 ton or less is as follows:
(b) For a light vehicle with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of more than $150,000 that is 10 years old or less, the annual registration fee is the amount provided for in subsection (2)(a) plus $825.
(4) Except as provided in subsection (15), the one-time registration fee for motor vehicles owned and operated solely as collector's items pursuant to 61-3-411, based on the weight of the vehicle, is as follows:
(b) Whenever a valid summer motorized recreation trail pass issued pursuant to 23-2-111 is affixed to an off-highway vehicle other than a quadricycle or motorcycle, the one-time registration fee is $41.25.
(c) For a motor home with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of more than $300,000 that is 10 years old or less, the annual registration fee is the amount provided in subsection (7)(a) plus $800.
(8) (a) (i) Except as provided in subsections (8)(b), (8)(c), and (15), the one-time registration fee for motorcycles and quadricycles registered for use on the public highways is $53.25, the one-time registration fee for motorcycles and quadricycles registered for off-highway use is $53.25, and the one-time registration fee for motorcycles and quadricycles registered for both off-road use and for use on the public highways is $114.50.
(ii) An additional fee of $16 must be collected for the registration of each motorcycle or quadricycle as a safety fee, which must be deposited in the state motorcycle safety account provided for in 20-25-1002.
(iv) An additional safety fee of $7 must be collected annually for each motorcycle or quadricycle registered under 61-3-701. The safety fee must be deposited in the state motorcycle safety account provided for in 20-25-1002.
(c) Whenever a valid summer motorized recreation trail pass issued pursuant to 23-2-111 is affixed to a motorcycle or quadricycle, the one-time registration fee for motorcycles and quadricycles registered for:
(c) The one-time registration fee for golf carts authorized to operate on certain public streets and highways pursuant to 61-8-391 is $25. Upon receipt of the fee, the department shall issue the owner a decal, which must be displayed visibly on the golf cart.
(13) (a) Except as provided in subsection (13)(b), a fee of $10 must be collected when a new set of standard license plates, a new single standard license plate, or a replacement set of special license plates required under 61-3-332 is issued. The $10 fee imposed under this subsection does not apply when previously issued license plates are transferred under 61-3-335. All registration fees imposed under this section must be paid if the vehicle to which the plates are transferred is not currently registered.
(b) An additional fee of $15 must be collected if a vehicle owner elects to keep the same license plate number from license plates issued before January 1, 2010, when replacement of those plates is required under 61-3-332(3).
(c) The fees imposed in this subsection (13) must be deposited in the account established under 61-6-158, except that $2 of the fee imposed in subsection (13)(a) must be deposited in the state general fund.
(14) The provisions of this part with respect to the payment of registration fees do not apply to and are not binding upon motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, snowmobiles, watercraft, or tractors owned or controlled by the United States of America or any state, county, city, or special district, as defined in 18-8-202, or to a vehicle or vessel that meets the description of property exempt from taxation under 15-6-201(1)(a), (1)(d), (1)(e), (1)(g), (1)(h), (1)(i), (1)(k), (1)(l), (1)(n), or (1)(o), or (1)(q), 15-6-203, or 15-6-215, except as provided in 61-3-520.
(15) Whenever ownership of a trailer, semitrailer, pole trailer, off-highway vehicle, motorcycle, quadricycle, travel trailer, motor home, motorboat, sailboat, personal watercraft, motorized pontoon, snowmobile, motor vehicle owned and operated solely as a collector's item pursuant to 61-3-411, or low-speed electric vehicle is transferred, the new owner shall title and register the vehicle or vessel as required by this chapter and pay the fees imposed under this section.
(19) (a) Unless a person exercises the option in either subsection (19)(b) or (19)(c), an additional fee of $9 must be collected for each light vehicle registered under this part. This fee must be accounted for and transmitted separately from the registration fee. Of the $9 fee:
(iv) 39 cents must be deposited in the Montana heritage preservation and development account established in 22-3-1004 and used for the operation of state-owned facilities at Virginia City and Nevada City.
(b) A person who registers a light vehicle may, at the time of annual registration, certify that the person does not intend to use the vehicle to visit state parks and fishing access sites and may make a written election not to pay the additional $9 fee provided for in subsection (19)(a). If a written election is made, the fee may not be collected.
(c) (i) A person who registers one or more light vehicles may, at the time of annual registration, certify that the person does not intend to use any of the vehicles to visit state parks and fishing access sites and may make a written election not to pay the additional $9 fee provided for in subsection (19)(a). If a written election is made, the fee may not be collected at any subsequent annual registration unless the person makes the written election to pay the additional fee on one or more of the light vehicles.
(20) For each light vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, pole trailer, heavy truck, motor home, motorcycle, quadricycle, and travel trailer subject to a registration fee under this section, an additional fee of $10 must be collected and forwarded to the state for deposit in the account established in 44-1-504.
(21) (a) If a person exercises the option in subsection (21)(b), an additional fee of $5 must be collected for each light vehicle registered under this part. This fee must be accounted for and transmitted separately from the registration fee. The fee must be deposited in an account in the state special revenue fund. Funds in the account are statutorily appropriated, as provided in 17-7-502, to the department of transportation and must be allocated as provided in 60-3-309.
(23) (a) The $800 and $825 amounts collected based on the manufacturer's suggested retail price in subsections (2) and (7) are exempt from the provisions of 15-1-122 and must be deposited in the motor vehicle division administration account established in 61-3-112.
(b) By August 15 of each year, beginning in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019, the department of justice shall deposit into the general fund an amount equal to the fiscal yearend balance minus 25% of the current fiscal year appropriation for the account established in 61-3-112.
(24) For the purposes of this section, "manufacturer's suggested retail price" means the price suggested by a manufacturer for each given type, style, or model of a light vehicle or motor home produced and first made available for retail sale by the manufacturer."
"61-10-214. Exemptions. (1) Motor vehicles operating exclusively for transportation of persons for hire within the limits of incorporated cities or towns and within 15 miles from the limits are exempt from this part.
(2) Motor vehicles brought or driven into Montana by a nonresident, migratory, bona fide agricultural worker temporarily employed in agricultural work in this state when those motor vehicles are used exclusively for transportation of agricultural workers are exempt from this part.
(3) Vehicles lawfully displaying a dealer's or wholesaler's plate as provided in 61-4-102 and 61-4-125 are exempt from this part for a period not to exceed 7 days when moving to or from a dealer's or wholesaler's place of business when unloaded or loaded with dealer's or wholesaler's property only or while being demonstrated in the course of the dealer's or wholesaler's business. Vehicles being demonstrated may not be leased, rented, or operated for compensation by the licensed dealer or wholesaler.
(4) Vehicles exempt from property tax under 15-6-201(1)(a), (1)(d), (1)(e), (1)(g), (1)(h), (1)(i), (1)(k), (1)(l), (1)(n), or (1)(o), or (1)(q) or 15-6-228(4) are exempt from this part. The department of transportation may require documentation of tax-exempt status from the department of revenue before granting this exemption."
NEW SECTION. Section 24. Public charter school exemption. A public charter school established under [sections 1 through 17] is exempt from the provisions of Title 20 except as explicitly set forth in [sections 1 through 17].
NEW SECTION. Section 25. Appropriation. There is appropriated $75,000 from the general fund to the state public charter commission for the biennium beginning July 1, 2021, as a one-time appropriation to commence operations, hire staff qualified to execute day-to-day operations, and approve authorizers for the establishment of charter schools.
NEW SECTION. Section 27. Codification instruction. (1) [Sections 1 through 17] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 20, and the provisions of Title 20 apply to [sections 1 through 17].
NEW SECTION. Section 28. Nonseverability. It is the intent of the legislature that each part of [this act] is essentially dependent upon every other part, and if one part is held unconstitutional or invalid, all other parts are invalid.
New language in a bill appears underlined, deleted material appears stricken.
Sponsor names are handwritten on introduced bills, hence do not appear on the bill until it is reprinted.
See the status of this bill for the bill's primary sponsor.
Prepared by Montana Legislative Services