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Washington Companies, nonprofits raising funds for early childhood education in Montana

July 19, 2010View for printing

"Investment in early learning has a far greater return than literally any other (social) investment you can make." Mike Halligan, executive director of The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and a former state lawmaker.

Led by one of Montana's most successful industrialists, a group of nonprofits has launched a drive to bring large private donations to Montana's cash-strapped early childhood educational system - in which the average teacher makes less than $17,000 a year.

"Parents worry so much about how they're going to send their children to college, but it costs more to send them to child care," said Kelly Rosenleaf, executive director of Missoula's Child Care Resources .

Montana's early childhood educational system is funded almost entirely with tuition money from parents and includes large child care centers, free-standing private preschools, church-sponsored preschools and more informal child care in homes. The only tax dollars that go into the system include Head Start and Early Head Start centers for children living below the federal poverty line, and the state's Best Beginnings Scholarship program, which provides tuition assistance for working families with incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.

By JENNIFER McKEE Missoulian State Bureau

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Montana Career Opportunity - Development Director - Child Care Resources
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