Governor Steve Bullock recognizes that our greatest obligation is to the next generation of Montanans. It’s with this in mind that he’s put together a plan to make voluntary, high-quality early childhood education available to every Montana four year-old.
Montana is currently one of eight states without a publicly funded pre-kindergarten option for four year-olds.
Studies have shown the benefits that high-quality, early childhood education has on student success. Children who take part in high-quality early childhood education programs are:
- More likely to read at grade level,
- Less likely to repeat a grade or require special education,
- More likely to earn a high school diploma,
- Less likely to become teenage parents, require public assistance, abuse drugs, or end up in jail.
In addition, these programs have been shown to help ensure that every child enters kindergarten ready to learn with appropriate social and behavioral habits that will allow teachers to focus on teaching rather than managing distractions.
High-quality early childhood education programs have shown a significant economic impact as well. On average, for every dollar spent on these programs, communities see a $7-$9 return on investment through savings and increased economic activity.
Through Bullock’s proposal, block grants will be available to every Montana public school district to create or expand high-quality early childhood education programs in their community. School districts will have the option of creating a new program, or partnering with an existing early childhood education program to build on the existing strengths in their community. Participation in these programs will be voluntary, meaning that parents will be able to decide if it is the right option for their child.
Programs will be required to meet high quality standards that:
- Require a lead teacher with an early grades endorsement;
- Sets a teacher to student ratio of 1:10;
- Establishes guidelines for family engagement that ensure family, community and culture are integrated as part of a child’s learning both inside and outside the classroom; and
- Sets a process for collaboration with community resources to connect children and families with tools to support health growth and development of children.
- Requires developmentally appropriate curriculum including social and emotional development through play, learning soft skills
To fund the program, Bullock will request a $37 million biennial appropriation in his budget proposal that will be presented to the legislature in November.