Governor Steve Bullock today announced that Montana has received $1,375,218 in supplemental funding to serve more at-risk four-year-old Montana kids with high-quality preschool.
“If we take care of our kids and give them high-quality early childhood experiences, we set the stage for their success in school and in life,” said Governor Bullock. “These dollars will enhance our recent investments in high-quality preschool and create more educational opportunities for the next generation of Montanans.”
The funding was awarded to the Montana Office of Public Instruction as a supplemental to the Preschool Development Grant. The Montana Preschool Development Grant is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Public Instruction.
The funding will be provided to preschools in Montana to provide financial assistance for early childhood teachers to pursue higher education credentials, increase quality of preschool programs serving high needs and at-risk children, serve more four-year-old children with a priority on children with special needs, English language learners and American Indian children, and assist programs in making preschool classrooms and facilities inclusive for children with disabilities, English Language Learners, and American Indian children.
In the first two years of the grant, 1,838 children and their families gained access to preschool, ensuring they start kindergarten ready to learn. Last year, 152 educators benefitted from financial assistance from the grant to pursue higher education and training.
Governor Bullock worked with the 2017 Montana Legislature to secure the state’s first-ever investment in publicly-funded high-quality early childhood education - $6 million over the next two years to expand educational services for Montana’s four- and five-year-olds. Funding to create the STARS preschool pilot program was included in House Bill 649 and passed with bipartisan support.
High costs and limited access to high-quality programs across Montana prevent many families from taking advantage of early childhood education opportunities. The average cost of childcare for a four-year-old in Montana is $7,900, or 13% of the average family’s income. However, ages 0 – 5 are most critical for building a foundation that will result in fewer problems down the road. Research shows that children with high-quality early learning opportunities are more likely to read at grade level, graduate from high school, and earn even more money; and that every $1 spent on high-quality pre-school programs creates $7 in future savings to the communities and states that invest in them.