Governor Steve Bullock’s budget priorities going into the 2019 Legislative session includes more money for early childhood education and higher education.
Bullock was able to secure $6 million from the 2017 Legislature to fund 17 pilot programs aimed at providing high quality pre-Kindergarten programs.
“We’ve demonstrated that it works in our areas of rural and in urban, Bullock said of the STARS Preschool Pilot program launched in communities across the state from Billings to Wibaux.
He said he knows some lawmakers have been skeptical about in investing in early childhood education.
He hoped the results from the pilot program will convince the Republican controlled Legislature to open up the state’s checkbook and continue the investment. He argued if lawmakers are serious about having an educated workforce that investment needs to start at the preschool level.
“If you don’t enter Kindergarten ready, you’re half as likely to be not at grade level by 3rd grade, 4 times more likely to drop out of high school,” Bullock said. “We know we can’t wait to build a workforce until somebody’s a senior in high school or a senior in college.”
His budget proposal contains a $30 million request for early childhood education, most of that is to put into effect voluntary preschool.
Bullock also is seeking to increase state funding for Montana’s colleges and universities so the campuses can freeze tuition.
The governor’s budget outlines how his Administration proposes to spend a projected $10 billion in state and federal money. Lawmakers beginning January 7, 2019 will have a chance to put their stamp on the state’s priorities for the coming two years.