Gov. Chris Sununu testifies before the House Education Committee on Tuesday. (DAN TUOHY/UNION LEADER)
Sununu touts full-day kindergarten bill
CONCORD — A bill to help communities fund full-day kindergarten is an investment in children and the business community, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday.
Sununu told the House Education Committee that the lack of kindergarten programs statewide came up when he met with businesses, including on a recent trip to Quebec.
“The word is out that we’re really one of the last states to have not taken this step,” he said.
The Republican from Newfields first proposed full-day kindergarten when he presented his $12 billion state budget recommendation in early February. The House Finance Committee cut the $18 million from its recommended spending in the two-year plan, though the full House did not pass a budget bill.
The Senate, which is now working on the proposed budget, passed the kindergarten bill that is now pending in the House. It proposes targeting up to $9 million in aid per each year of the biennium for communities that choose to establish a full-day program.
The bill, as Sununu had originally proposed, factors the kindergarten grant aid based on percentage of English learners and participation rates for free and reduced lunch programs in school districts, as well as property base.
It won bipartisan support in the Senate. The House GOP leadership, however, is not taking a position on the bill.
At least four state representatives signaled their opposition to the bill on Tuesday: J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, Lynne Ober, R-Hudson, Gregory Smith, R-Pelham, and Chris True, R-Sandown.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, testifying in support of the bill, said he’s seen firsthand that full-day kindergarten is making a difference in the Queen City, which began offering it three years ago.
“It is our responsibility to provide a quality education to our students, not just an adequate education, a quality education — and full-day kindergarten is a cornerstone of a quality education,” Gatsas said.
The mayor noted that kindergarten plays a role in the city and state’s response to the opioid and heroin crisis, in that the earlier children of addicted mothers and families can get in the classroom, the better chance they have of success.
The House Education Committee could vote today on the bill and send its recommendation to the full House.
Sununu said he was proud to be the first governor to put forth a viable plan for full-day kindergarten across the state.
“Children in full-day kindergarten can show lasting gains in academic achievement, increased graduation rates, and lower crime rates,” he said.