Senate Bill No. 357

Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________

A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act establishing a Montana prekindergarten program; creating a Montana prekindergarten committee; establishing a prekindergarten trust fund; and providing an effective date."


A statement of intent is required for this bill because it grants rulemaking authority to the Montana prekindergarten committee in [section 5] to implement the Montana prekindergarten program.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:

NEW SECTION. Section 1.  Short title. [Sections 1 through 5 and 7 through 10] may be cited as the "Montana Prekindergarten Program Act".

NEW SECTION. Section 2.  Purpose. The purpose of the Montana Prekindergarten Program Act is to provide developmentally appropriate educational services that are consistent with the unique physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs of young children.

NEW SECTION. Section 3.  Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 5 and 7 through 10], the following definitions apply:

(1) "Board" means the board of crime control provided for in 2-15-2006.

(2) "Children with disabilities" means children evaluated in accordance with the regulations of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400, et seq., as having cognitive delay; learning impairment, including deafness; speech or language impairment; visual impairment, including blindness; emotional disturbance; orthopedic impairment; autism; traumatic brain injury; other health impairments; deaf-blindness; multiple disabilities; or specific learning disabilities and who because of those impairments needs special education and related services.

(3) "Committee" means the Montana prekindergarten committee provided for in [section 6].

(4) "Department" means the department of justice provided for in 2-15-2001.

(5) "Prekindergarten" means a program that provides comprehensive child and parent education in order to help maximize the potential of children between 3 and 5 years of age.

(6) "Trust fund" means the prekindergarten trust fund account established in [section 4].

NEW SECTION. Section 4.  Prekindergarten trust fund -- administration. (1) There is a prekindergarten trust fund account in the state special revenue fund in the state treasury. The money in the trust fund is allocated to the committee provided for in [section 6] for funding services and activities under and payment of administrative costs of the Montana prekindergarten program provided for in [section 5].

(2) Funds deposited in the trust fund may be used only for the program authorized in [section 5] and may not be used to pay the expenses of any other program or service administered in whole or in part by the department.

(3) The assets of the trust fund must be invested by the board of investments as provided by statute. If not used for the prekindergarten program, the interest and earnings must be returned to the trust fund. At the end of each fiscal year, the unexpended account balance must carry forward to the next fiscal year and may not revert to the state general fund.

(4) The committee may accept contributions, gifts, and grants to the Montana prekindergarten program. Monetary gifts, contributions, and grants must, upon receipt, be paid into the trust fund established in this section.

(5) The costs incurred by the committee in administering the Montana prekindergarten program must be paid for with money from the trust fund. The committee shall keep costs to a minimum and shall use existing office space, personnel, equipment, and supplies of the department to the extent possible.

NEW SECTION. Section 5.  Montana prekindergarten program. (1) The committee shall use the money in the trust fund to provide grants to prekindergarten programs.

(2) In administering the Montana prekindergarten program, the committee shall:

(a) develop an application packet, application procedure, and criteria for the receipt of grant funds;

(b) establish priorities for funding prekindergarten programs;

(c) monitor the expenditure of funds by prekindergarten programs receiving funds under this section;

(d) evaluate the effectiveness of services and activities funded under this section; and

(e) adopt rules necessary to implement [sections 1 through 5 and 7 through 10].

NEW SECTION. Section 6. Montana prekindergarten committee. (1) There is a Montana prekindergarten committee allocated to the department of justice for administrative purposes only as provided in 2-15-121. The committee shall work in cooperation with the board of crime control.

(2) The committee consists of 10 members appointed by the governor as follows:

(a) one person representing the child and family services division of the department of public health and human services;

(b) one person representing the families achieving independence in Montana project;

(c) one person representing the justice system;

(d) one school administrator;

(e) one person representing head start;

(f) one person representing the office of public instruction;

(g) one person representing postsecondary education;

(h) two primary grade teachers; and

(i) one preschool teacher.

(3) The members of the committee must be compensated and receive travel expenses as provided for in 2-15-122.

NEW SECTION. Section 7.  Application procedure -- application contents -- eligibility. (1) An applicant seeking a grant for a prekindergarten program from the trust fund created in [section 4] shall submit a grant application to the committee. The application must be made on a form furnished by the committee.

(2) The application must include the following information:

(a) the name and address of the applicant;

(b) the location of the prekindergarten program;

(c) a description of the prekindergarten program, including a proposed budget and the parent education component;

(d) an explanation of how the program will serve the target population and provide all of the components as specified in the federal head start performance standards and guidelines;

(e) the proposed number of children to be served;

(f) the qualifications of the instructional staff; and

(g) any other information considered necessary by the committee.

(3) Nonsectarian organizations, including public school districts and head start grantees, are eligible to apply for grants.

NEW SECTION. Section 8.  Minimum grant qualifications -- eligibility criteria for children served. (1) A grant application must meet the following minimum qualifications:

(a) Funds must be used to establish and maintain a continuing, new, or expanded prekindergarten program and may not be used to supplant a federally supported head start program.

(b) A prekindergarten program must be coordinated with federal head start guidelines to ensure efficient delivery of services and to prevent overlap.

(c) A prekindergarten program must provide parents with:

(i) ongoing opportunities to observe teacher-child interactions; and

(ii) hands-on opportunities as available and appropriate in the classroom.

(d) A prekindergarten program must provide fundamental instructional approaches to various curriculum endeavors.

(e) A prekindergarten program must provide for ongoing teacher observations and assessments of each child as well as ongoing communication with parents and receiving elementary school kindergarten teachers.

(f) A prekindergarten program must include a parent education component that:

(i)  provides parents with information on child development, discipline, communication, and strategies for preparing their children for school success;

(ii) imparts parenting skills and information that reflect the needs of the population served;

(iii) requires parents to work in the classroom for a minimum of 2 hours a week; and

(iv) coordinates with existing community resources.

(2) (a) A prekindergarten program must be for children who are at least 3 years old on or before September 10 of the entrance year.

(b) At least 60% of the children served by the program must meet the eligibility criteria for the head start program.

(c) The program must be for a minimum of six children.

(d) At least 10% of the total number of enrollment opportunities statewide must be available for children with disabilities.

(3) A prekindergarten program that has received funds from the trust fund is eligible for a continuation grant, provided that the program received a favorable evaluation from the committee.

NEW SECTION. Section 9.  Grant conditions -- accounts and reports. (1) A grant may not be awarded unless the grantee accepts the conditions of the grant and signs a contract stipulating those conditions.

(2) A grantee shall agree in writing that:

(a) the grantee is the official and sole agency for the administration of the prekindergarten program described in the grant agreement;

(b) a person may not, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, sex, or age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that results from the expenditure of grant funds;

(c) the funds granted will be expended solely for the purpose and activities described in the approved application;

(d) the funds granted will be used for Montana citizens; and

(e) a minimum of 4% of the total grant will be used for staff development.

(3) The grantee shall maintain accounts, records, and other pertinent materials pertaining to the costs incurred and expenditures made under the grant. The system of accounting employed by the grantee must be in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and be applied in a consistent manner so that program costs and expenditures can be clearly identified.

(4) The grantee shall submit to the committee annual reports of expenditures during the course of the grant and other financial and descriptive reports that the committee may require.

NEW SECTION. Section 10. Committee reports. The committee shall make an annual report to the board and a biennial report to the legislature. The board shall prescribe the contents of the reports.

NEW SECTION. Section 11.  Codification instruction. (1) [Sections 1 through 5 and 7 through 10] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 20, chapter 7, and the provisions of Title 20, chapter 7, apply to [sections 1 through 5 and 7 through 10].

(2) [Section 6] is intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 2, chapter 15, part 20, and the provisions of Title 2, chapter 15, part 20, apply to [section 6].

NEW SECTION. Section 12.  Effective date. [This act] is effective July 1, 1997.