Montana’s Early Childhood Services Bureau is housed in the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, and manages early care and education (ECE), including the federal Child Care and Development Fund, The Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Head Start State Collaboration Grant, and the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant. The state uses Child Care and Development Fund dollars to provide Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarships for low-income families as well as Best Beginnings Quality Programs for early care providers to improve their services. Through the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant, the School Readiness Initiative was created and has continued in partnership with the Governor’s Office.
In 2006, two Governor’s Summits, with funding and technical assistance from the National Governors Association, helped expand the discussion of ECE in Montana. The first provided a forum for ECE providers, legislators, economic development experts, and leaders of tribal nations to share innovative practices, develop plans and craft a statewide birth to five agenda. The second summit convened private sector leaders to focus school readiness. Teams of stakeholders in communities across the state received small $3,000 grants from the Governor’s Head Start Collaboration Office to support the implementation of their school readiness plans. School readiness teams have received other grants for continued activities, such as funds from a federal Food Stamp Bonus, which have been focused on addressing the oral health needs of children. The school readiness community teams met again in 2007 to continue the work at the local levels and share across groups.
Montana released an economic impact study in May, 2008.The study was produced through an interesting collaboration of the Governor’s Education Initiative, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Early Childhood Services Bureau, and a major Montana philanthropic organization, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. This meant that economic development leaders were in the core planning team from the outset of the economic impact process.
Using Economic Messages
The economic impact report was released at two events: The Governor’s Workforce Summit and the 2007 School Readiness Summit. At the workforce summit, a panel presentation highlighted the key findings of the report, challenges with running a child care center and meeting parents’ needs, and how ECE fits into Montana’s state economic development plan. At the school readiness summit, leaders from local school readiness community teams were presented the information and discussed ways they could use the economic message to advance their local efforts.
The economic message was also presented at the Families and Learning Conference, to ECE providers and staff from Resource and Referral agencies, licensing, and other support organizations.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
The Montana Economic Development Association (MEDA) surveyed their members about the importance of ECE to their work, and is including questions about ECE in their Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) interviews of business leaders and their economic development needs.
The state’s Department of Labor and Industry, Research and Analysis Bureau included child care questions in their workforce survey to understand what workers’ needs throughout the state are. This will help the ECE field meet workers’ needs more effectively.
State and Legislative Actions
State funds were appropriated for SFY 2008 and 2009 to ensure no waiting list for Best Beginnings Scholarships in order to serve income-eligible families at or below 150% of the annual federal poverty index and to reimburse providers at the 75th percentile of the annual market rate. Similar legislation was successful in the 06-07 biennium as well.
In 2007, the legislature appropriated funding for schools to receive funding for full-time kindergarten should they choose to offer it. In 2008, 92% of kindergarten students are provided this option, compared to less than a third (27%) prior to this statutory change.
Child Care Plus: The Center on Inclusion in Early Childhood is dedicated to creating a world where meeting the needs of every child is a natural part of everyday life. The Center shares knowledge, fosters skills, and encourages attitudes that promote inclusion as a core component of excellence in early childhood.
Montana Association for the Education of Young Children is the number one member organization in Montana to support, provide resources and advocate for the early care and education community. Its mission is to improve professional practice and working conditions for all teachers and caregivers of children, birth to eight years, and to build understanding and support for high quality early childhood programs.
Montana Child Care Resource and Referral Network, provides statewide leadership in shaping collaborations and strengthening local resource and referral agencies for the purpose of collectively building a diverse, high quality early care and education system accessible to all Montana families.
Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Research and Analysis Bureau is part of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's Workforce Services Division, and works in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to develop labor market information about Montana and the United States that businesses, educators, government agencies, researchers, students and others find useful.
Montana Early Childhood Project, Montana State University, founded in 1985, is dedicated to improving the quality of programs and services for Montana's young children and their families. The Project is located in the Department of Health and Human Development at Montana State University - Bozeman.
Montana Economic Developers Association. The Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA) is an association of economic development professionals, made up of professional economic developers, business specialists, government employees, and staff members of affiliated non-profit organizations which promote and foster economic development activities in Montana.
Montana Head Start/State Collaboration Office. The Montana Head Start Association brings together families, staff, directors and friends of all Head Starts to provide leadership, education, information and advocacy on behalf of young children, pregnant women, and families throughout Montana.
Montana Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC) provides leadership, technical assistance and coordination to help boost student academic achievement. The Montana PIRC has been administered under the auspices of Women's Opportunity and Resource Development, Inc. since 1998.
Montana School Readiness Initiative. The School Readiness Initiative is a statewide effort that coordinates partnerships at the state level and in local communities. The community teams have different leadership and planned activities, but all agree that education about child development, readiness specifics, and appropriate expectations are all important. The teams make efforts to consolidate school readiness planning with other early childhood efforts in their communities.
Office of the Governor, Office of Indian Affairs. The Office of Indian Affairs was established in 1951 by the Montana legislature to facilitate effective tribal-state communications with special attention to the discussion and resolution of issues and concerns that Indian tribes face in regard to their unique political status with the federal government, and as full citizens of the state of Montana.