There is a lot of misinformation about the proposed pre-k bill going around the internet and social media, and it’s not the reality of what’s going on with our kids and families.
House Bill 755 would create a statewide public pre-k program for all Montana 4 year-olds. Montana is one of only six states that has no public funded pre-k program.
The funding for HB 755 is funded through the Average Number Belonging (ANB) formula which is the same formula for funding Montana’s public schools based on the students enrolled. This is a huge victory that the education community fought for and Governor Bullock was able to negotiate into the proposal. This funded formula will ensure the viability and longevity of Montana’s public pre-k program.
HB 755 is modeled after Alabama’s pre-k program which has been consistently rated the top program in the nation for its quality, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the leading think tank on best practices and policy implementation for pre-k.
Alabama has recognized that to turn their state around, and have their students ready to succeed, they need to invest in their youngest learners. It is a model worth emulating.
This bill has the potential to serve nearly 4,000 Montana preschoolers each year, many who are not even able to access a pre-school program today. There is not another bill supported by moderate republicans that will pass this session. Period.
Of the 44 other states that offer public pre-k, every one of them has a mixed delivery system between public schools, Head Start and private providers. Not one state has a solely public school program for pre-k.
HB 755 has 92% of the funding going to public schools and Head Start programs while only 8% goes to private pre-k classrooms. This funding model is the same as the current STARS Preschool Pilot program and the same for every single state in the nation.
Without a public pre-k program, the only options for Montana families are to go to a private provider or qualify for Head Start if they are low-income. There are no other options for families unless this public pre-k bill is passed.
The other red herring is the creation of a gubernatorially-appointed cabinet position to oversee the pre-k program.
This legislation allows Governor Bullock’s appointee to set the rules and determine the first cohort of preschool programs. Governor Bullock’s appointee’s rules and guidance in the first year will make up the bulk of programs and once established, will have stable funding through the ANB model.
The Director of DPHHS is appointed by the Governor. The Board of Public Education members are appointed by the Governor. If the next Governor is Greg Gianforte, Tim Fox, or even Derek Skees and the biggest concern is who they might appoint to this tiny agency with a tiny scope of authority, perhaps you are worried about the wrong thing.