The Education Interim Committee met January 14, 2020, during Legislative Week, and devoted significant time to the topics of recruitment and retention and pre-kindergarten.

The morning session included updates from the Montana State Library and the Montana Digital Academy. The Office of Public Instruction shared information with the committee related to school climate, the state's accountability plan under ESSA (the federal Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2015), and on the implementation of HB 351 (transformational learning) and HB 387 (advanced opportunities). The committee questioned the first-come, first-served nature of each of those bills' granting process and requested that staff bring back options and considerations for revision. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education provided an overview of the University System's Enterprise Information System.

The morning wrapped up with a panel presentation from music education students emphasizing the importance of music education and providing input on how to bolster recruitment and retention of music educators, and educators generally, around the state. This provided a nice introduction to a panel of presenters after lunch describing the collaborative efforts of multiple organizations to examine and address concerns about recruitment and retention in Montana schools, especially rural schools. The committee will continue to monitor the implementation of revisions to the Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program made in HB 211.

The meeting finished with the committee taking input from numerous stakeholders on the question of how a state-funded, voluntary pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds should be designed. The committee determined to continue working on this issue by examining models that allow mixed delivery (from public schools, Head Start programs, and community-based providers) in coordination with public school districts.

The committee will hold its next meeting Thursday-Friday, March 19-20, 2020, in Helena. For more information visit the committee’s website or contact Pad McCracken, committee staff, at or 406-444-3595.

The Legislative News.