According to the Laconia Daily Sun, HB 155 would give Laconia schools an additional $261,792 in state education funding. Schools across the state would receive an additional $14.5 million, and charter schools would get an additional $350,000 if the bill is passed. The House hasn’t voted on the bill yet.
For Gilmanton, the additional funding would pay for a teacher, according to the district’s superintendent John Fauci:
“The rebate would be wonderful, but the Gilmanton School Board, administration, taxpayers have all supported this out of their own pocket… We’ve been very proactive in offering what we see as a benefit. All the studies I read will tell you that early interventions pay huge dividends and get kids involved in education earlier. Early intervention – you’re solving issues before they become big issues,” Fauci said.
Laconia superintendent Brendan Minnihan agreed that it would bring much needed relief to his district. Many of Laconia’s children, he said, start school without the necessary skills–something that kindergarten programs help remedy:
“We firmly believe in Laconia in early intervention. If you look at our data of kids coming in, many of them do not have prerequisite kindergarten skills… There is a large population of our students that do not have the skills needed,” Johnson said, adding, “A half-day program is not going to cut it with some of the needs of our students.”
Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hillard is coming out strong in support of funding for full-day kindergarten. He wrote a letter to the Laconia Daily Sun urging the state to consider passing the bill:
According to Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, “lack of funding for full-day kindergarten is one of the biggest hurdles for children” in New Hampshire. “Our state continues to struggle with a tragic opioid epidemic, which has caused an increase of crime in our communities,” Hilliard wrote in an opinion article. “There are many ways we can tackle this problem, but one I believe can help in the long run is high quality early education. Unfortunately, New Hampshire is one of the only states east of the Mississippi River without state-funded preschool, putting our kids at an early disadvantage compared to those from other states. Further, our state does not provide full-day kindergarten to all of our students.”
But as hopeful as districts are for funding relief, some legislators are concerned about competing priorities for this biennium’s budget. Senate Education Chairman John Reagan (Deerfield) told the Laconia Daily Sun:
“I have a similar bill in Senate Education… The two questions are: Is this a good policy?, and secondly: Is it possible for the budget to sustain the spending? The situation is exacerbated by the desperation of parents looking for day care. So, as it stands now, the governor may or may not have placed the money in the budget. If it is budgeted, the first hurdle is House Finance and will have to pass the affordability test.”
“Like all budget items, funding for kindergarten is one of thousands of items. It will unfold in the next few weeks.”
Governor Sununu is scheduled to deliver his budget address on Thursday, February 9 at noon. Officials have said that he will deliver the address despite the pending storm.
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