Gov. Bullock, Superintendent Juneau Encourage Lawmakers To Restore Preschool Funding To Budget

Highlighting the important benefits of early childhood education, Governor Steve Bullock and Superintendent Denise Juneau today sent a letter to Montana’s federal lawmakers asking them to restore funding to the successful Preschool Development Grant program. Funding for the program would be eliminated under spending bills moving through Congress.

“The Preschool Development Grant is critical for our state to build, develop, and expand high-quality preschool programs so children from low-and moderate-income families have the opportunity enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life,” Bullock and Juneau said in the letter. “We urge you to stand with Montana’s earliest learners, their families and their teachers, and work to fully fund the Preschool Development Grants.”

Montana is one of 18 states that received preschool development grants to expand access to high-quality preschool programs. The grant provides the state with $10 million a year, for four years, to expand or establish preschool programs in 21 high-needs communities. The grant is estimated to provide preschool education to more than 6,000 four-year-olds in the state over the next four years.

The 21 communities benefiting from these funds are:

Anaconda, Boulder, Bozeman, Browning, Butte, Crow Agency, East Helena, Fort Belknap, Great Falls, Hardin, Helena, Kalispell, Lame Deer, Lewistown, Libby, Livingston, Pablo, Poplar, Rocky Boy, Ronan, Wolf Point

In addition, the grant provides funding to grow Montana’s early childhood workforce through professional development and scholarships for preschool teachers.

“As Governor and Superintendent, we work every day to make sure our Montana students receive the best education and the best opportunity for success,” Bullock and Juneau’s letter stated. “Yet because the state of Montana is in the dwindling minority of states that have never invested state dollars in our earliest learners, we are in danger of falling behind.”

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.

Bullock and Juneau’s letter can be found here.