Governor Steve Bullock today joined teachers, families and kiddos to celebrate the opening of new preschool classrooms in Belgrade, supported by HRDC-Head Start and the Montana Preschool Development Grant. HRDC’s Early Childhood Education Program offers high-quality preschool for low-income families in the community.
“It’s heartening to see communities step up and provide preschool opportunities to better prepare students for kindergarten.” said Governor Bullock. “I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in Montana, but we still have work to do to make sure all children have the opportunity for a high-quality early education that prepares them for success in kindergarten and beyond.”
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 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.