ANACONDA – Preschool is not daycare. It’s early education. It’s a statement that educators continue to stress, despite challenges.
“They really get a lot of academic skills, we’re kind of more academically focused,” said Lincoln Primary School preschool teacher Kallie Rieger.
This is why teachers are disappointed that the Montana Legislature is not expanding pre-school funding. At Lincoln Primary School in Anaconda, educators say toddlers learn important behavioral and basic learning skills that better prepare them for kindergarten.
“Since 2015 until right now, things have gotten a lot better in terms of readiness to actually learn and be ready for school,” said Principal Norah Barney.
Without state funding, preschools in Anaconda and Butte will have to find financing to stay open. The Lincoln program needs almost $300,000 to operate effectively.
“We have been fortunate though because our school district is investing in early childhood and so over the course of the preschool development grant which we received in 2015 the district has slowly been taking over the reins of early childhood education,” said Barney.
“You can make decisions, well thought out decisions, unless you’re actually in the trenches and see what we do every day and the importance of what we do, who these children are growing and learning and making huge gains from the beginning of the year to the end,” said preschool teacher Brianna Eamon. “I just think if they could see that in action that they would understand what we’re doing is really important for the future of those kids.”
Butte’s school district also plans to support local preschool programs.