Governor Bullock this morning called out Montana Republicans' claim in their recently released Republican Action Plan (attached) that one of their six priorities is to Put Students and Parents First. The second bullet under Put Students and Parents First states their intent to "Oppose state expansion into Pre-K education."
"Investing in Montana kids is not only the right thing to do for the future generation of Montanans, but for the future of Montana's economy," said Governor Bullock. "The fact that Republican legislators refuse to acknowledge that core Montana value is irresponsible, short-sighted, and damaging to Montana's economic growth and job opportunities."
Governor Bullock has proposed a modest investment in early childhood education in his 2019 biennium budget because he believes that giving Montana kids an early edge is critical for the success of Montana students and families. Bullock wants to make sure that every child enters kindergarten ready to learn by establishing a preschool grant program.
Montana newspapers across the state have already begun to urge support for Governor Bullock's proposal.
Missoulian: "It should pass this time, so long as legislators remember that every dollar invested in quality early education will save the state even more money down the road. The research is solid; this is a wise use of limited resources." (LINK)
Montana Standard: "Let's start with the kids. Montana is one of only five states that does not provide state funding for early childhood education. Is that a club we really want to keep belonging to? Are we proud of that for some perverse reason? (LINK)
Bozeman Daily Chronicle: "This is a no brainer. Early childhood education has been shown to pay off with higher student performance in later years, fewer high school dropouts, fewer teen pregnancies and lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse." (LINK)
Studies have shown time and time again that early childhood education pays dividends multiple times over. Ages 0-5 are the most critical for building a foundation that will result in fewer problems down the road:
Children with high-quality early learning opportunities are more likely to read at grade level, graduate from high school, and earn more money.
Investment in preschool opportunities reduces the absenteeism of working parents, lowers crime rates for juveniles and adults, attracts and retrains better employees and new businesses to communities, and builds a stronger workforce.
Every $1 spent on high-quality pre-K programs creates $7 in future savings to the communities and states that invest.
Over the past decade, early childhood education has unfolded as a bipartisan issue across the country.
"Republican governors, with Republican-majority legislatures, have invested in their kids' futures because they realize that it's a smart investment in the future of their states," noted Governor Bullock. "But it would seem that Montana Republicans have decided that our state's four-year olds are less important than trying to make a political statement. It's unacceptable, and Montana families expect more of them."
Republicans across the country have realized the importance of investing in early childhood education.
During his 2016 State of the State Address, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said "When all children need access to a quality early education, we give them that chance [ ] We know this program works, we've seen the statistics, but more importantly we've seen the results in the lives of our students."
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has noted that on her watch, New Mexico has "more than doubled pre-K funding." Martinez also called for legislators to "choose progress, not politics" when it comes to early childhood education.
Vice President-Elect Mike Pence noted in his 2016 State of the State Address as Governor of Indiana that under his tenure, they "increased bonuses for hardworking teachers, launched the first-ever statewide pre-K program -- opening doors of opportunity for disadvantaged kids."
Governor Bullock proposes to invest $12 million over the biennium in high-quality early learning opportunities. Early interventions such as pre-K have more impact than any other preventative measure and will result in savings to the state for special education, child protection services, corrections, and safety net programs.
The preschool grant proposal is a responsible and affordable management of state tax dollars. The preschool grant proposal ensures that high-quality standards are met so that all Montana families have the opportunity to access safe and nurturing learning environments, high-qualified teachers and staff, and developmentally appropriate curriculum.
The preschool grant program is a voluntary, local control proposal: voluntary for schools or communities to participate and voluntary for parents to enroll their children.