Did you know that in Montana:


  • More than 221,000 children (under the age of 18) live in the state;
  • 3 out of every 10 children live in a household with only one parent;
  • More than 4,000 children participate in the federally-funded Head Start program;
  • 65 percent of fourth graders are reading below grade level;
  • 60 percent of eighth graders are below grade level in math; and
  • 18 percent of high school students do not graduate on time with a high school diploma.

Click here for the complete Montana Fact Sheet.

Developing Necessary Skill Sets

To overcome the challenges of the skills gap, we must train and re-train our current workforce. We must also develop skills in young people to ensure that they enter the workforce better prepared.  To be equipped with the knowledge and abilities businesses now require, students must:

  •  Master Core Academic Content
  •  Think Critically and Solve Complex Problems
  •  Work Collaboratively
  •  Communicate Effectively
  •  Learn How to Learn
  • Develop Academic Mindsets
Click here to read a description of these skills.

Innovative high school education models, along with rigorous standards, assessments, and accountability systems, can help to address the skills gap affecting businesses across the country. Business leaders know the importance of educational standards and aligned assessments that will help students master core academic content, and train them to think critically, solve complex problems and communicate effectively (i.e. deeper learning skills) that they will need to be competitive in today’s highly-skilled workforce.

Click here to view more on the background of these standards.

Click here to learn more about standards for math and standards for English language arts.

Click here to view more on Montana’s standards.

Bringing Career Relevance to High School Classrooms

In conjunction with these standards and assessments, innovative high school have shown promising results in preparing students for success in college and career. Often called “smaller learning communities,” education models such as “Career Academies” integrate career relevance training with a rigorous academic curriculum, equipping students with important skills highly valued by employers. These schools:

  • Are comprised of a group of students who take classes together for at least two years and are taught by the same group of teachers
  • Provide a college preparatory curriculum based on a career theme that helps students see relationships and connections between academic subjects and their application in the real world.
  • Develop partnerships with employers, the community, and colleges.


 Our 2014 Policy Priorities


Education policy at the federal and state levels needs to address the range of knowledge and skills needed for all students to be fully ready for college and careers. Policy opportunities include:

  • Skill Development
  • Measurable Results
  • Accountability
  • Professional Development and Teaching Practice
  • Academic Standards and Aligned Assessments

Policy Priorities:

In 2014, America’s Edge members will be urging their state legislative and congressional delegations to do the following:

1. Support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. 

  • The Strong Start for America’s Children Act is legislation that increases access to, and the quality of, pre-K to children across the country.

2. Protect access to high quality early care and education and increase quality of programs by:

  • Fighting against cuts, and where possible seek increases, for Head Start, Early Head Start and both the discretionary and mandatory funding streams of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); and
  • Seeking to, at minimum, maintain the current investment in the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program to enable States to build up the necessary infrastructure to increase access to high-quality early care and learning programs, especially for the most at-risk children.

3. Support the state implementation of the Montana Common Core State Standards. 

  • To ensure that students are better prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive world market, we support efforts to implement more rigorous educational standards through the Common Core State Standards.

America’s Edge Events and Activities


 America’s Edge Releases New Report

Four prominent business leaders from Montana gathered September 11, 2013 to release an America’s Edge report showing that investments in quality early learning provide a surprisingly big boost to Montana businesses and the economy today, as well as providing long-term economic benefits. According to the report—Strengthening Montana Businesses through Investment in Early Care and Education: How Investments in Early Learning Increase Sales from Local Businesses, Create Jobs, and Grow the Economy—every $1 invested in early care and education in Montana generates a total of $1.61 in sales of goods and services in the state.

Click here to view the full report.

America’s Edge Members Met with Governor Steve Bullock

On July 29th, 2013, business leader members of America’s Edge met with Montana Governor Steve Bullock to discuss the need for quality early learning and rigorous standards, assessments, and accountability systems.

America's Edge Members meet with Governor Bullock

Chris Ackerman, Managing Operator of three radio stations in Butte; Tom Trebon, President of Carroll College, [Ret.]; Governor Steve Bullock; Shane Ford, Owner and President of ReBath Montana; Dave Curry, Montana State Director of America’s Edge

America’s Edge Members Met with Senator Max Baucus

On October 23, 2012, two Montana members – Sharon Palmer of Lambros Real Estate and Glen Wheeler of Liberty Mutual – met with Senator Max Baucus at Kalispell at an early learning center to re-release a report showing the economic benefits of investments in quality early learning programs.

Generated Media

DAILY INTER LAKE: Senator hears about early education benefits

NBC Montana: Baucus encourages early childhood education


 America’s Edge Releases New Report in Montana

On September 11, 2012, a briefing entitled “Ready to Compete” was released in Butte by members Leslie Womack, President of Montana Educators’ Credit Union and Shane Ford, Owner and President of ReBath Montana. They discussed how investments in early care and education programs benefit Montana businesses’ bottom lines immediately and help lay the foundation for a highly-skilled workforce.

Generated Media



America’s Edge Members Discuss Early Learning with Rep. Denny Rehberg and Sen. Jon Tester

On June 7, 2012, America’s Edge members, Steven Reynolds and Leslie Womack met with Congressman Denny Rehberg and Senator Jon Tester to discuss the short- and long-term economic benefits of investments in early care and education.

Business Leaders Meet with Congressional Delegation to Support Early Ed Programs in Montana

Rehberg Meeting June2011.jpg

America’s Edge members sit down to meeting with Congressman Rehberg.

On June 14, 2011, two Montana business leaders met with the state’s Congressional delegation to stress the importance of high-quality early care and education to the future of Montana’s business community.

Ken Holmlund, who owns Holmlund Mobile Lock and Key in Miles City, and Ron Schafer, managing member of the Schafer and Company accounting firm in Bozeman, met with Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg to urge continued federal support for early care and education programs which could face severe cuts in next year’s federal budget.  Holmlund has owned his firm for 28 years, and Schafer has run his firm for 14 years.

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America’s Edge members with Senator Tester after their meeting

In separate meetings with the federal legislators, Holmlund and Schafer noted that investments in early care and education provide strong economic benefits to businesses in the state, both in the short-term and over the long-term.  They cited the new America’s Edge report, which found that quality early care and education programs in Montana generated $1.61 in total spending for every dollar invested – more than investments in other sectors, such as transportation, construction, and farming, forestry, fishing and hunting.

The Miles City Star published an article regarding the meetings with the congressional delegation. Click here to read it.


America’s Edge in the News


For more information, please contact Western States Regional Director, Martha Brooks.

Phone: (866) 512-3245