Billings Leaders Discuss Public Preschool - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Billings Leaders Discuss Public Preschool

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BILLINGS, Mont. - How would public preschool affect Montana and its kids? That's what the local government affairs committee discussed at the Billings Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.     

The group of Billings leaders talked the pros and cons of Governor Steve Bullock's proposed Early Edge Program. The program would establish high-quality, voluntary, public preschools.

Montana is one of eight states that do not have public pre-kindergarten education options. Bruce MacIntyre at the Chamber of Commerce says he's concerned with the manpower and space issues it may bring, as School District Two is already dealing with overcrowding. He says he wonders how Billings daycares would be affected, but says, while there are many questions, educating more kids at an early edge is undeniably important.

"There are lots of questions," he said. "As I described to this group in here -- right now -- it's kind of like grabbing smoke. You can see it, but there's nothing to put your hands on.

Most states have funded public preschool for decades, and Jason Harris says that can be used to Montana's advantage.

"I think being one of the last states is nice in the sense that we can look at the other states as models," he said. "See what they're doing, and see what worked and what didn't work.

"But I think that obviously says something that the majority of the states have already implemented some program like this and we haven't. It's something, clearly, we need to work at and we need to address."

Studies have shown how high-quality, early childhood education affects student success. According to the governor's office, studies show that kids who take part in high-quality are more likely to read at grade level, earn a high school diploma, and "less likely to become teenage parents, require public assistance, abuse drugs, or end up in jail," according to earlyedge.mt.gov.

Governor Bullock will request $37 million dollars for Early Edge as part of his budget proposal to the legislature.