After securing the first-ever state investment in publicly funded preschool, Governor Steve Bullock today announced the STARS Preschool grantees and highlighted the importance of this investment for Montana families during an event at the Head Start in Billings.
“More Montana kids will now have even greater opportunities growing up here than the generations before them,” said Governor Bullock. “This investment helps our families, it helps our kids get off to a bright start, and it helps our economy. We’re finally making this long-awaited investment, and by doing so, building a stronger future for Montana.”
Montana families will now have greater access to quality early childhood education in 16 communities across the state.
STARS Preschool Grantees:
- Alberton Public School, Alberton, MT
- Head Start, Inc., Billings, MT
- Discovery Place Child Care, Bozeman, MT
- Stepping Stones Preschool, Dillon, MT
- Eastgate Elementary, East Helena Public Schools Dist. 9, East Helena, MT
- ABC Academy, Helena, MT
- Helena Public Schools Montessori-Hawthorne, Helena, MT
- Early Childhood Center at Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, MT
- Small Wonder Child Care Inc., Lewistown, MT
- Lockwood School District, Lockwood, MT
- Lolo School District/Lolo Preschool and Child Care, Lolo, MT
- Marion School District 54, Marion, MT
- Cherry Valley Elementary, Polson School District #23, Polson, MT
- Beartooth Children’s Center, Red Lodge, MT
- Ronan School District No. 30, Ronan, MT
- Kountry Kare, Shepherd, MT
- Troy Public School, Troy, MT
A selection committee made up of representatives from the Governor’s Office, Legislature, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, public education and early childhood education experts reviewed a total of 47 applications and selected 17 programs for funding based on the quality of the application, readiness of the program, geographic diversity, and diversity of program type. Programs will serve 285 four- and five-year old children.
Governor Bullock worked with the 2017 Montana Legislature to secure $6 million over the next two years to expand educational services for Montana’s four- and five-year-olds. Funding to create a pilot preschool 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.