Another View -- Judd Gregg and John Lynch: Something we can all agree on
THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL contest is well under way. We in New Hampshire are about to make choices in our first-in-the-nation primary that will have far-reaching ramifications for our nation.
We have an incredible responsibility every four years to use our strong New Hampshire values and judgment to help shape the national debate and select who our next President will be.
We also get to witness first hand just how frustrating and polarizing the political process can be, and how the issues that divide us often seem to control the discussion of the day. Yet as citizens and neighbors, we know we share common ground.
As representatives from opposite parties, we strongly believe in an issue that transcends politics and strongly reflects our core values: support for national service. National service harnesses America’s most powerful resource — the energy and talents of our citizens — to improve communities, impact lives and tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our nation. Not only is this an issue that we both agree on, voters across the country overwhelmingly support an increased investment as well.
A recent poll conducted in nine presidential battleground states, including New Hampshire, shows overwhelming support for robust federal investments in national service. After learning the details about national service, 83 percent of voters said they would like to maintain or increase the levels of spending and investment, including 78 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of independents, and 90 percent of Democrats — and even 78 percent of Tea Party supporters.
New Hampshire, where residents have long embodied what it means to be active citizens, relies heavily on volunteers whether it’s neighbor helping neighbor, mentors and teachers guiding children, or communities coming together to clean up parks, stock food pantries and support one another. National service is making that happen and has fueled our growth in volunteerism over the past 20 years.
In fact, each AmeriCorps member leverages more than 40 community volunteers by providing regular volunteer management. The bang for the buck is compelling and badly needed: Economists estimate that every dollar invested in national service generates almost $4 returned to society in higher earnings, increased output and other community-wide benefits.
One proven, cost-effective national service program helping to make a difference here is City Year New Hampshire (CYNH). Serving in eight of Manchester’s high-poverty schools, City Year AmeriCorps members provide struggling students with the additional support they need to advance toward high school graduation prepared for college, careers and successful lives. And it’s working. According to a recent third-party study, schools that partner with City Year across the country are two to three times more likely to improve on state assessments in English and math — and an overwhelming 98 percent of students tutored by CYNH improved their literacy scores.
Other well-known New Hampshire organizations that use national service members to deliver their missions and drive results include the Student Conservation Association, which engages AmeriCorps members in environmental stewardship projects, and the US FIRST Foundation, which fuels innovation in education focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
Americans overwhelmingly agree that national service prepares young people for the workforce, builds strong neighborhoods and communities, and restores the American values of patriotism and civic duty. Four-in-five voters also supported the education awards offered to AmeriCorps alumni, which help to defray ever-rising college costs. (AmeriCorps members earn a college scholarship worth $5,775.) With the largest average student loan debt in the nation, this is likely a benefit Granite Staters in particular can get behind.
As we hear more from the presidential candidates and learn details about their plans for the country’s future, a commitment to expanding funding for national service, which is paid for, should be included. It not only makes moral and fiscal sense, but good political sense, too. Sounds like a great combination for any presidential candidate to embrace. We hope we’ll hear them talk about it out on the trail.
Judd Gregg, a Republican, represented New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011. John Lynch, a Democrat, was the governor of New Hampshire from 2004 to 2013.