The U.S. Supreme Court said Montana cannot exclude students at private, religious schools from using scholarship programs funded indirectly by a state income-tax credit. The ruling overturns a 2018 Montana Supreme Court order that terminated the tax
credit and said the program violated Montana's constitutional ban on public aid to churches or religion-affiliated organizations. Bullock said he is "disappointed" with the decision and "will continue to fight for public education in Montana."
Source: KTVH NBC-TV-Helena on 2020 Montana Senate race
, Jun 30, 2020
Freeze college tuition; college credit for veterans
For our veterans, we've expanded opportunities to get college credit for prior learning gained through their military service. In 2013, states around the country were slashing university budgets and saddling students with
steep tuition increases. Instead, we have increased investments in higher education while freezing college tuition four of the last six years; leading to Montana having the fourth lowest tuition and fees in the nation.
Let's once again freeze in-state college tuition and prevent what is effectively a tax increase on 28,000 Montana students and their families. And let's finally join 49 other states providing state-funded, need-based
financial aid for students and adult learners. These investments will determine for decades to come the economic success of Montana students, workers and families.
Public education is one of our state's great equalizers. I launched the "1-2-Free" Dual Enrollment Program so that high school students can take their first two college classes without paying a single penny in tuition. In 2013, not a single one of our
two-year or tribal colleges was offering apprenticeships. We now have apprenticeship coursework in seven out of ten two-year colleges, and in five of seven tribal colleges.
Source: 2019 State of the State address to the Montana legislature
, Jan 31, 2019
Increase funding for higher education
We have much to be pleased with when it comes to our wise investments in higher education.
Since 2009, 46 states have decreased their funding of higher education. In Montana we've increased funding.
We hear that our kids are our greatest
export--yet the facts show that 80% of our resident students are now employed right here in Montana within a year of graduating, up from 74% in 2009.
Our University System, state government, and the private sector are working together to produce
graduates that have a world-class education and the skills our local businesses need to grow.
Yet, there is more to do. There are investments we can't afford NOT to make. I am asking you to increase our state's investment in K-12 by $30 million.
We can also increase our support for special education by $1.5 million. We can continue investments in preserving our Native languages. We can invest $2 million dollars to further build out the internet connectivity in our schools.
Invest in publicly funded early childhood education
It's time to follow the lead of 45 other states that have done it already, and invest in publicly funded early childhood education. My administration and local districts have made progress for our four-year olds these past four years, in spite of--not
as a result of--this body. Last year, more than 650 children were able to access high quality preschool their parents otherwise might not have been able to afford.
The average cost of childcare in Montana for a four-year old is $7,900 dollars--in
other words, more than college tuition at Montana State University or the University of Montana. A mom earning minimum wage could easily spend half of her income on childcare for just one kiddo.
Let's help those families. I have proposed a
$12 million preschool grant program to allow school districts, Head Start programs or high-quality private preschool providers to offer preschool for four-year-old kids at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Invest in higher ed for 21st Century workforce, like Diesel
We can't expect to develop a 21st Century workforce in 20th Century conditions. The next generation of plumbers and welders, nurses and imaging techs, diesel mechanics and carpenters are learning their trades in substandard facilities.
The Missoula College was built in 1956 for 700 students and now has an enrollment approaching 3,000. Last week I visited the Automotive and Diesel Program at Havre. It has 200 students, a 100% placement rate, and some graduates earn a starting salary
better than a Governor. But without our investment, this program cannot grow.
And it's not just Missoula and Havre; many of our facilities are outdated and operating beyond their capacity. The young Montanans who are willing to invest in higher
education deserve better. That's why [the state government]--along with the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Contractors Association and others--have joined together to propose record investments in our educational facilities.
Let's commit to increasing the number of Montana adults with a post-secondary degree or professional certificate to at least 60% over the next decade. We are now at about 40%; this is an ambitious goal. I have included proposals in this budget that move
us in this direction.
Offering college classes to more high school students will help them recognize that higher education is within their reach and will give them a jump start on earning college credits.
We can make it easier for students by
creating a universal enrollment system, so students at Miles Community College have access to courses at Montana State University.
We aren't going to produce more college graduates if the cost of college is beyond the reach of Montana families.
When tuition increases because higher education isn't adequately funded, that's a tax on tens of thousands of working families across our state. My budget includes an agreement to freeze tuition across the university system. I urge you to honor it.
MT is dead last in investment in early childhood education
Unfortunately, Montana is dead last in the nation--50th out of 50--in state investment in early childhood education. That's unacceptable.
We can't expect the federally funded Head Start program to carry the entire burden.
Some local communities have stepped in to make sure these youngsters are given a better chance.
As a first step, I urge this body to expand the proven "Stars to Quality Program" and make the long overdue investment in school readiness.
I've laid out a plan that will create 100 more high-quality early childhood programs, getting 600 more families and 1,000 more children ready for school, annually.
It's a proven high-return investment that will produce long-lived benefits for the students and our economy. And our commitment and investment must continue throughout their schooling.