HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Supporters of a bill to help pay preschool costs for children from low-income families told lawmakers the investment would pay off in a reduction in special education services and improved readiness for kindergarten.

A bill by Democratic Rep. Kathy Kelker of Billings would appropriate $6 million in each of the next two school years to provide grants of up to $3,000 per student for 4-year-olds to attend a school-based preschool, Head Start or a licensed private, non-religious preschool.

The Independent Record reports (bit.ly/2mpfrpE) participation in the preschool program would be voluntary and the family's income must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The House Education Committee did not act on the bill on Monday.

The federal government pays $5,347 for each of 1,119 students in Head Start. Kelker's bill would fund just over 1,900 preschool slots.