Kindergarten goes viral…the number of districts offering full-day programs is on the rise

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HB 1563, currently pending in the Legislature, would for the first time take a very important step by providing full adequacy support for kindergarten for all districts.  Here is some background on the growth of kindergarten in New Hampshire.

Former Governor Jeanne Shaheen first pushed for publicly supported kindergarten in New Hampshire in 2000. House Bill 1188, signed by the Governor in June of 2000, allowed private, locally-managed kindergarten programs to contract with the Department of Education and offer public kindergarten.  The bill provided adequacy funding for each student at half the per-pupil funding level for students in grades 1-12.

Since then, school districts have slowly begun to offer kindergarten, mostly half-day at first.  However, districts have increasingly offered full-day kindergarten.

Full-day kindergarten has been shown to have greater learning gains per dollar spent than other early childhood interventions like reduced class size.  In one study, full-day kindergarten was show to have helped close the achievement gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic children.

Since 2010, New Hampshire has required all districts to offer at least half-day programs, although the state still pays only 50% of the adequacy figure for each kindergarten student.  Attendance is not mandatory.  As of 2013, 73% of eligible students were enrolled in kindergarten.  Despite the lack of full day funding, 94 of the state’s 153 school districts offer full-time programs, serving 55% of the state’s eligible students in 2013.

NHPR created this graphic to show the rise of full-day kindergarten programs in the state, where since 1999 the number of districts offering the programs has grown substantially. As the graphic shows, once one district adopts full-day kindergarten, surrounding districts tend to follow suit:

NHPR Graphic

 

Senators Stiles, Watters, Boutin, and Feltes led efforts in the 2015 legislative session to implement universal full-day kindergarten.  They sponsored SB 228, which would have provided all districts with full adequacy support for full-time kindergarten.  The bill was tabled in the Senate in March and the provision did not make it into the budget.

In the 2016 session Representatives Luneau, Myler, Verschueren, and Gile and Senator Feltes have sponsored HB 1563, another try at providing universal full-day kindergarten.

As New Hampshire moves toward universal availability of full-day kindergarten, the State can turn its attention to access to pre-kindergarten, which is currently very limited.  Only 4 in 10 children from low-income households attend pre-kindergarten programs, compared to 64% of children from wealthy households.  Early childhood programs like high quality pre-kindergarten have been shown to result in lasting gains in academic achievement, increase graduation rates and reduce crime rates.

Read the full NHPR article here.