Another View -- Mark Shriver: Working together toward full-day kindergarten
In today's political environment, those on opposing sides rarely offer each other genuine praise and a sincere willingness to work together after a hard-fought battle. As the president of Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), a bipartisan organization that advocates for stronger investments in high-quality early childhood education in New Hampshire and across the country, that is what I’m doing today.
Last fall, our organization backed the Democratic nominee for governor, Colin Van Ostern, because he committed to fully funding all-day kindergarten for all New Hampshire kids and ran an aggressive campaign on it. In a hotly contested race, our candidate lost. Chris Sununu won.
And now Gov. Sununu is doing what is right, engaging across party lines, and asking state legislators in Concord to make targeted full-day kindergarten a reality. For that, he deserves praise both from SCAN and from families and kids all across the Granite State who will benefit from this proposal.
Gov. Sununu could have ignored supporters of full-day kindergarten and prioritized other policy items. Instead, in his budget address, he unveiled a plan that allocates nearly $18 million over two years to help more children across the state have access to full-day kindergarten.
The proposal will benefit some of the most vulnerable kids in New Hampshire and SCAN fully supports its adoption. We and our thousands of activists across the state now stand ready to work with Gov. Sununu and his team to advocate for its passage in the Legislature because we know that kids are more important than politics.
Like all states, New Hampshire faces tough financial decisions as it works to balance its budget and wisely spend taxpayer money. But investing in early childhood education is a no-brainer. Not only is it a question of equal opportunity for kids, but research from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that investments in high-quality programs can yield an annual 13 percent return through improved outcomes, such as reduced crime, higher graduation rates and improved sociability.
Put more simply, Gov. Sununu’s proposal doesn’t just benefit the kids who will go to kindergarten in September, it benefits every taxpayer in the state.
On behalf of SCAN, I applaud Gov. Sununu for his leadership on this issue. But the announcement of this proposal is only a first step. In the months ahead, state representatives and senators will have to be convinced of its wisdom as they debate its adoption.
I ask them to stand with New Hampshire’s parents and SCAN to support Gov. Sununu’s proposal for targeted full-day kindergarten. This is a smart and necessary investment in the state’s children and in the future of its economy.
Mark Shriver is president of Save the Children Action Network.