In Montana, 977 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs, and 1,841 three-year olds and 2,720 four-year olds are enrolled in Head Start programs. While Montana is one of nine states that does not have a publicly funded preschool or early-childhood education program, the state did submit a proposal for a $37 million grant from the Obama Administration for early-childhood education funding at the end of 2013. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,475. The grant ultimately was not accepted, but there is growing momentum from policymakers and business leaders across the state for increasing investments in early childhood education.
- What the governor is saying: Gov. Steve Bullock delivered a speech to business leaders asking for their support on a major proposal he was preparing to fund early-childhood education in Montana. The governor has also traveled throughout the state highlighting the need to expand early childhood education funding, quoting the economic statistic that, “nationally, we know that a $1.00 investment from 0 to 5 has a $7 to $9.00 return.”
- Funding increases and additional support: In spring 2014, a business leader’s summit on early childhood education was held bringing together the government and business leaders to discuss the importance of early childhood education and the need that Montana has for it. A report by the Montana Budget and Policy Center shared that “a universal program would begin paying for itself in nine years and cost $88 million a year to run once fully phased in. By 2050, the costs are estimated at $212 million, far less than the $1.7 billion in anticipated benefits.”