If bills were passed strictly on the basis of support from parents, educators, law enforcement officials, and business leaders, the governor’s public preschool plan, Early Edge, would have passed long ago.
We have seen more letters to the editor, guest editorials, and editorials in favor of Early Edge than almost any other issue.
Despite the legislative majority’s failure to support Early Edge, the proposal is still alive – and will remain alive to the very end of the legislative session.
Here’s what the Bozeman Chronicle opined:
Legislators should back governor’s education plan
Bozeman Chronicle Editorial Board 3/20
A Montana legislative committee recently gave the boot to Gov. Steve Bullock’s proposal to fund education for the state’s preschool students. Committee opponents to the measure in the GOP-controlled House justified the vote arguing that it would keep education spending low.
But these are the same legislators who subsequently OK’d a bill that would extend tax credits to parents for tuition paid to private schools, a measure that would cost the state more than $1 million over the next few years.
The message, apparently, is that it’s just fine to give away state education dollars while snubbing a program proven to help the performance of all Montana preschool students.
Consistent research has proven that giving pre-kindergarten kids a shot at education boosts their performance throughout their elementary and high school years and on into their post-secondary education and working lives.
Preschool education is an investment. It’s been shown to reduce the likelihood of later dependence on social programs and chances of ending up in the justice system. By approving this measure, Montana would join all but five other states that have seen the wisdom of investing in these programs.
Bullock’s plan would allow school districts to apply for funds to set up preschool programs — or not — and for parents to opt into the program for their kids — or not. Nothing is required of any district or any family. The bill would make available $37 million for preschool education, though the actual price tag — depending on how many school districts and parents choose to participate — could be less, perhaps much less.
Montana is one of the few states that enjoy a budget surplus — one that is likely to increase in the current period of economic growth. Investing a little of that money now in the future of our kids will produce benefits in lower social program spending in the years to come.
This isn’t pork. This is putting money we have where it will produce a return.
As the budgeting process proceeds, there will be opportunities to put money for preschool education back into the mix.
Reasonable lawmakers from both parties — those who are not yoked to ideological zealotry — need to band together and restore funding for public preschool education.
It’s just the smart thing to do.