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Bullock calls for support of early education

No-go | State loses out on fed grant
2014-01-10T06:00:00Z 2014-05-22T16:29:34Z Bullock calls for support of early educationBy MIKE DENNISON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
January 10, 2014 6:00 am  • 

In a speech to state business leaders Thursday, Gov. Steve Bullock said he’s preparing a major proposal to fund early-childhood education in Montana — and wants their help in supporting it.

“If we want to have a workforce that can compete for the jobs of tomorrow, we must invest in the children of today,” he said at a Montana Chamber of Commerce conference in Helena.

Bullock, a Democrat, said Montana is one of only nine states with no significant publicly funded preschool or early-childhood education program.

His said administration will be “putting together a program to make those investments,” to be submitted to the 2015 Legislature.

Last fall, his administration and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau applied for a $37 million grant from the Obama administration to help fund early-childhood education.

Montana, however, was not among the six states that won grants late last month.

Earlier Thursday, Bullock said the grant was not “the be-all and end-all of what we needed to do” on early childhood education.

The question now will be whether and how the state finds the money to fund such programs, which he said are sorely needed.

“It really is an investment not just in education, but in economic development in our state,” he said in an interview with reporters at the Capitol. “We do need to prioritize this.”

Six states won the federal early-childhood grants, totaling $280 million, to help each state “align, coordinate and improve the quality of existing early learning and development programs,” according to the Obama administration.

Montana’s proposal called for expanding access to prekindergarten programs among low-income families, improving standards for early-childhood education providers, strengthening the early-childhood workforce and preparing all kids for kindergarten.

Juneau said Thursday she hadn’t seen the final scoring on the grant, but it’s likely Montana’s chances were hurt because it has no substantial state investment in early childhood programs.

Bullock, in his speech Thursday, said Montana remains in “the shrinking minority of states that have never invested in the human capital of our earliest learners.”

Research has shown that kids who take part in prekindergarten programs are less likely to have to repeat a grade, drop out of school, become teenage parents, abuse drugs or end up in jail.

Every dollar spent on good, early-childhood programs results in $7 to $9 savings down the road, he said.

“Done right, it is a win-win scenario,” Bullock said. “You’re more likely to have the skilled workers you need, and the state is less likely to spend money on corrections and safety-net programs down the road.”

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. Carroll1234
    Report Abuse
    Carroll1234 - January 10, 2014 8:25 am
    Just a couple of concerns here Mr. Bullock. I notice that you want to make this money available to provide opportunities for low income families to send their children to pre-pre-kindergarten classes. I think if this is to be a tax-payer funded program then ALL tax payers should have it made available to them as well.

    Secondly, what jobs are you talking about placing these men and women into? Right now it appears that we are millions of job short nationally and thousands short in Montana for all these highly educated persons to enter. Either now or in the future. One does not need 15 to 20 years of education to apply for burger flippin duties at 10.00\hour top salary. Montana needs career opportunities to apply for not just more and more education so people can become overqualified for the menial tasks currently available. A long term industrial plan for Montana's future would be more in order.

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