House passes full-day kindergarten bill
CONCORD - The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 247-116 Thursday to pass a bill to fund full-day kindergarten.
The House sent the $14 million legislation to its Finance Committee for review.
The Senate previously passed a $9 million bill to target aid to communities for full-day kindergarten programs, which Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields supported. The governor offered his support for the revised package.
"I applaud the House for taking this important step today to provide financial support to communities that choose to support and create full-day kindergarten programs," Sununu said in a statement. "I believe strongly that this is the right thing to do and I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature as the measure moves forward."
The vote Thursday was one to watch because House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, and his leadership team did not take an official position on the bill.
The Senate has voted on different bills to fund kindergarten, including the $14 million version. Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, said the vote was showed the widespread support for full-day kindergarten.
The legislation got a boost over the past two weeks from Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, and the heads of several chambers of commerce, including Dover, Derry-Londonderry, and Manchester.
Rep. Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, opposed the bill, arguing that kindergarten students are not able to sit in school for a full day. She also raised concerns about local control.
“For those of you with great kindergartens, I congratulate you on having maintained local control, something that will surely disappear with state funding,” she said.
Rep. Terry Wolf, R-Bedford, said there is no mandate for communities to proceed with a full-day program if they now only have a half-day program.
Current law dedicates $3,600 for each student from first grade to 12th grade, but has a cap on kindergarten students, who are reimbursed $1,800 per student, Wolf explained. The bill treats all students, kindergarten to seniors, at the same $3,600 level.
Wolf, who is vice chairman of the House Education Committee, said 73 percent of towns now offer full-day kindergarten programs.