Montana State Regulations
Updated June 5, 2013 State Regulation of Private Schools (Revised July 2009) is the last full report.
Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval
- Accreditation is optional.
- Nonpublic schools may be accredited upon request to the superintendent of public instruction in the same manner as public schools. Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-101.
- The three categories of accreditation are: regular accreditation, accreditation with advice, and deficiency accreditation. “Nonaccredited status means that a school on deficiency status fails to meet the requirements of intensive assistance and is out of compliance with the Board of Public Education standards of accreditation.” Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.605, established by the Montana Board of Public Education as authorized by Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-101.
- No requirements for Registration.
- No requirements for Licensing.
- No requirements for Approval.
- A Montana educator license is required for all administrators, specialists, and instructors working in an accredited Montana school.
Length of School Year and Days
- Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school provides at least the minimum aggregate hours of pupil instruction in accordance with. Mont. Code Ann. §§20-1-301, 20-1-302 and 20-5-109(2).
- Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school provides “an organized course of study that includes instruction in the subjects required of public schools as a basic instructional program pursuant to 20-7-111. Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109(4).
- Accredited schools must comply with specified class size requirements in accordance with Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.712, established by the Montana Board of Public Education as authorized by Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-101.
- Accredited schools must meet the Content and Performance Standards in the Administrative Rules of Montana 10.54.2501, established by the Montana Board of Public Education as authorized by Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-101.
- Private accredited schools’ curricula must be reviewed every five years at the local level in accordance with the Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.603(4)(b).
- “The content and performance standards shall be used by school districts to develop local curriculum and assessment in all the content areas including: communication arts (reading, literature, writing, speaking and listening, and media literacy); arts; health enhancement; library media; mathematics; science; social studies; technology; world languages; workplace competencies; and career and vocational/technical education. The K-12 content standards describe what students shall know, understand and be able to do in these content areas. Progress toward meeting these standards is measured at three points along that continuum: the end of grade 4, the end of grade 8, and upon graduation. Performance standards define the quality of student performance and describe the performance to be demonstrated. Performance level descriptions provide a picture or profile of student achievement at the four performance levels: advanced, proficient, nearing proficiency, and novice.” Administrative Rules of Montana 10.54.2501(1).
Recordkeeping and Reports
- To qualify its students for exemption from compulsory enrollment under §20-5-102, a nonpublic or home school shall maintain records on pupil attendance and disease immunization and make the records available to the county superintendent on request. Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109(1). Each accredited school must keep, in secure storage, a permanent record for each student. This file must include: “(a) the name and address of the student; (b) his/her parent or guardian; (c) birth date; (d) academic work completed; (e) level of achievement (grades, standardized achievement tests); (f) immunization records as per §20-5-406, MCA; (g) attendance data; and (h) the statewide student identifier assigned by the Office of Public Instruction.”
- If a school closes, all records are to be sent to the local county superintendent. Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.909, established by Montana Board of Public Education as authorized by Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-101.
Health and Safety Requirements
- The governing authority of any school may not allow any person to attend unless the person has been immunized (see Code for specific immunizations required) and qualifies for conditional attendance because he has begun the immunization process, or files for an exemption. If a student transfers to another school district, the sending school must forward the original immunization records to the new school district. Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-403.
- Students are exempt from immunization requirements if they file a notarized affidavit claiming a religious exemption or a written statement by a physician that immunization is unsafe on medical grounds. The statements must be maintained in the student’s immunization records. Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-405.
- The Department of Public Health and Human services is responsible for making public health inspections of schoolhouses. Mont. Code Ann. §50-1-203.
- Attendance at a nonpublic school exempts a student from public education if the nonpublic school is housed in a building that complies with applicable local health and safety regulations. Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109(3).
- Private school buildings used for housing or instructing students may not be built, enlarged, or remodeled until the plans have been approved by the department of labor and industry or a municipality or county with a building code. Mont. Code Ann. §20-6-622.
- Schools must conduct at least eight disaster drills each year. “At least four of the drills must be fire exit drills. Drills must be held at different hours of the day or evening.” “A board of trustees shall identify local hazards that exist within the boundaries of its school district and design drills to address those hazards.” “The recall signal must be separate and distinct from any other signal.” Mont. Code Ann. §§20-1-401, §20-1-402 and §20-1-404.
- The sale of dangerous drugs on or within 1,000 feet of a private elementary or secondary school is a criminal offense under Montana’s criminal code. Mont. Code Ann. §45-9-109.
- Nonpublic school students may ride a public school bus if there is seating capacity available and the child secures a permit from the local school district. The school district may charge the child his or her proportionate share of the cost of operating the school bus. Mont. Code Ann. §20-10-123.
- School children traveling to and from parochial schools may receive free transportation or reduced rates from common carriers. Mont. Code Ann. §69-11-208(1)(o).
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to textbooks for private schools.
- All accredited schools must annually administer state-level assessments approved by the state board. Each spring the office of public instruction will identify a testing period when students must participate in state level assessments. Two implementation phases shall be followed. “Phase 1 – school years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the assessments shall be: (A) aligned to Montana content standards; (B) administered to grades 3-8 and 10 in math and reading; (C) administered to grades 4, 8, and 10 in science; and (D) administered in the spring of the year. Phase 2 – beginning in school year 2014-2015, the assessments shall be: (A) aligned to Montana common core standards; (B) administered to grades 3-8 and 11 in math and English language arts; and (C) aligned to Montana content standards for science and administered in grades 4, 8, and 10.” Mid-school year assessments will be administered to all students identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP) in grades K-12. All results of the state-level assessments must be provided to the office of public instruction and school districts in a format specified by the office of public instruction and approved by the board of public education. Administrative Rules of Montana 10.56.101.
- To the maximum extent possible, children with disabilities in private institutions must be educated with children who do not have disabilities. Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-411.
Nursing and Health
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to nursing and health for private schools.
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to technology in private schools.
- Teachers and specialists serving accredited schools must annually complete a minimum of three pupil instruction related (PIR) days of professional development. Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.714 (2), established by Montana Board of Public Education as authorized by Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-101.
Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions
- There is no state policy at this time pertaining to reimbursement for performing state and local functions in private schools.
- The Montana Constitution permits the Legislature to exempt from property taxes any property used exclusively for educational purposes. Mont. Const., art. 8, § 5(b).
- Tuition for nonprofit private educational institutions is exempt from Montana sales tax and use tax. 1993 Mt. Ch. 544 §31.
Public Aid for Private Education
- Constitutional Provisions: The Montana Constitution prohibits public aid to schools controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination. This provision does not apply to federal sources of income for nonpublic education. Mont. Const., art. X, § 6. The constitution prohibits appropriations for educational purposes to private associations or corporations not under control of the state. Mont. Const., art. V, § 11, cl. 5. The Montana Supreme Court has interpreted the state constitution to prohibit school boards from employing teachers to teach secular subjects in parochial schools. State ex rel. Chambers v. School District, 155 Mont. 422, 472 P.2d 1013 (1970).
- Programs for Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Schools: There is no such program at this time pertaining to financial assistance for attendance at private schools.
- Montana compulsory enrollment law is met if a parent or guardian has his or her child enrolled in a nonpublic or home school that complies with the provisions of Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109. Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-102.
- “A parent, guardian, or other person shall enroll the child in the school assigned by the trustees of the district within the first week of the school term or when the parent, guardian, or person establishes residence in the district unless the child is enrolled in a nonpublic or home school that complies with the provisions of Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109. For the purposes of this subsection (2)(e), a home school is the instruction by a parent of the parent’s child, stepchild, or ward in the parent’s residence and a nonpublic school includes a parochial, church, religious, or private school.” Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-102(2)(e).
Initial and Renewal Applications
- A home school must (1) maintain and make available to the county superintendent (upon request) attendance and disease immunization records; (2) meet the minimum aggregate hours of instruction in accordance with Mont. Code Ann. §20-1-301 and Mont. Code Ann. §20-1-302; (3) must be housed in a building that complies with applicable local health and safety regulations; (4) “provide an organized course of study that includes instruction in the subjects required of public schools as a basic instructional program pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-111″; and (5) in the case of home schools, shall “notify the county superintendent of schools of the county in which the home school is located in each school fiscal year of the student’s attendance at the school.” Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109.
Curriculum and Instruction
- “Subject to the provisions of Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-109, a parent has the authority to instruct the parent’s child, stepchild, or ward in a home school and is solely responsible for: (1) the educational philosophy of the home school; (2) the selection of instructional materials, curriculum, and textbooks; (3) the time, place, and method of instruction; and (4) the evaluation of the home school instruction.” Mont. Code Ann. §20-5-111.
- Students must be given a study course that involves instruction in the subjects required of public schools as defined in Mont. Code Ann. §20-7-111.
Public School Access
- Nonpublic students may not participate in public school district sports programs based on district policy. The Supreme Court of Montana ruled in favor of districts limiting participation to public school students when the primary interest of the district is to focus on developing the full academic potential in each student rather than permitting any student to play sports. Kaptein v. Conrad School District, 931 P.2d 1311 (Mont. 1997).
Information and Legislation
- Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI): Montana School Accreditation Standards and Procedures
- Montana OPI: Home School Information
- Montana Code Annotated 2011 – Title 20: Education
- Montana Secretary of State: Administrative Rules of Montana
Contact Information – State and Federal Departments of Education
Montana Office of Public Instruction
P.O. Box 202501
Helena, MT 59620-2501
U.S. Department of Education, Montana
Updated June 4, 2013