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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Legislature's Public Education Draft Doesn't Include Preschool Funding

Montana Capitol building.
Nick Mott
Montana Capitol building.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s request for more than $20 million for preschool funding is not included in the legislature’s initial draft of public education funding. 

The Legislative Subcommittee on Education finished its work Tuesday outlining money for public schools for the next two years.

Absent in it is Gov. Bullock’s request to fund optional public pre-K for 4-year-olds.

Republican Rep. Llew Jones is the chair of the education subcommittee. He says it wouldn’t make sense to set aside money for a program that isn't in place.

“We didn’t reject nothing. There is no language bill. Until there is a language bill, you do not appropriate for something that does not exist.”

In 2017, the state Legislature approved $6 million for a pilot preschool program.

The governor’s bill to fund a new optional preschool program statewide hasn’t received a vote since its first hearing on February 4. Montana is one of about a half dozen states in the country without an established state-funded preschool program.

A competing Republican plan for a public preschool block grant program was recently announced.

The outline for public education funding approved Tuesday includes money decided for school safety training. Republican Superintendent Elsie Arntzen requested half a million dollars set aside to fund safety training for teachers. Lawmakers approved $100,000 for it.

The K-12 education budget draft nows move on to a full appropriations committee.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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