Montana Governor Steve Bullock today announced the availability of $3 million for Montana preschool programs to expand access to quality early childhood education for four-year-olds. Governor Bullock worked with the 2017 Legislature to secure the first-ever state investment in publicly funded preschool. Funding to create a pilot preschool grant program was included in House Bill 639 and passed with bipartisan support.
“Focusing on our youngest Montanans gives all families and their children the building blocks they need to succeed, prosper, and contribute to the state’s economy,” said Governor Bullock. “This funding will expand access to preschool options that are affordable to families in both small and large communities who want to make sure their kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.”
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.
The goals of the STARS preschool pilot programs is to increase access to high-quality preschool and demonstrate the effectiveness of preschool in multiple settings including public schools, private preschool providers and public-private partnerships.
Public schools, Head Start programs, childcare providers serving four-year-olds, private preschools, and community-based preschools are eligible for competitive grants of up to $150,000 to participate in the STARS preschool pilot program. Applications and additional information, including program criteria, are available at www.starspreschool.mt.gov. Applications for funding must be submitted by 5PM MST on Monday, July 10, 2017.