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Montana

Our lead ally in Montana, Zero to Five, is focused on improving access to quality early care and education, forging business partnerships to support working families, building cross-sector collaborations to better understand economic impacts and business needs, fostering community engagement, and promoting efforts and policies that support families. Their promise is to stabilize, innovate, and build the early childhood system so Montana families and communities can thrive.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 38% (41,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 43% (47,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed the state’s budget for the fiscal 2024-2025 biennium on June 14. Total budgeted spending from all funds, including American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, is $19.3 billion for the biennium, an 11.8 percent increase from the prior biennium. The primary reasons for the increased spending were one-time income and property tax rebates to Montana residents, one-time payoff of state general obligation debt and state liabilities, inflationary increases in federal special authority for the Department of Transportation for surface areas, statewide infrastructure projects, and provider rate increases. Total general fund expenditures are forecasted at $3.45 billion in fiscal 2024 (a 28.0 percent decrease from fiscal 2023), and $2.97 billion in fiscal 2025 (a 14.0 decrease from fiscal 2024), while ongoing general fund expenditures are forecasted at $2.47 billion in fiscal 2024 (an 8.3 percent decrease from fiscal 2023) and $2.64 billion in fiscal 2025 (a 7.1 percent increase from fiscal 2024).3

Largest FY 2021 Revenue Sources (after federal transfers):4

    • Property Taxes: $1,873 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $1,738 per capita

Montana does not levy a general sales tax. 

Political Alignment: Aligned Republican

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Republican.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6 Six

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendment – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendment – An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Legislature-Initiated State Statute – Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated State Statute – Earns a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in Montana.
    • Veto Referenda – When citizens of Montana disagree with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, they can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.
    • Automatic Ballot Referrals – In Montana, there is one such question, by law, every twenty years, the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

Montana saw an unprecedented number of bills related to early childhood during the 2023 legislative session. We saw some wins aligned with our policy priority areas of child care expansion and early learning opportunities. Other wins for children and families included increased funding for home visiting, an adoption tax credit, Indian language preservation including in early education settings, and the Montana Indian Child Welfare Act.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

HB 352 provides targeted interventions to support 3rd grade reading proficiency

HB 287 revises laws related to Indian language preservation.

HB 648 expands the child care subsidy.

HB 187 clarifies that for the purpose of homeowner’s associations covenants, family and group child care is a residential use of property.

HB 317 provides for the Montana Indian Child Welfare Act.

Advocates defeated SB 450, which would have required a licensed child care provider to serve children with religious or conscience vaccine exemptions.

Advocates defeated HB 688, which would have prohibited social-emotional learning in school settings.

Bills creating a tax credit for child care providers, a state child tax credit for families, and a child care trust fund all had momentum, but didn’t quite make it across the finish line. Advocacy continues to ensure the bills return in some form during the next legislative session in 2025.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Montana, Zero to Five Montana, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Preschool and Pre-K

Child and
Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health

Family
Supports

Home Visiting

Child Welfare

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.

RECENT ADVOCACY SNAPSHOT:

Montana’s Push to Improve Early Education Includes a Partnership to Protect Tribal Languages  

Zero to Five Montana is improving early education by helping to protect the languages of the state’s 12 Native American tribes. It’s an effort to enrich children, support early educators, and draw on the experience and expertise of the larger community. Young children experience a better understanding of their own cultural identity when they can learn their tribal language, and this cultural knowledge helps heal some aspects of generational trauma that many indigenous families live with.

Read More »

NOTES:

1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:

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More State Demographic Data:

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