County Sherriff: Lack of funding for full-day K a big hurdle for NH children

Merrimack County Sherriff Scott Hillard submitted the following letter to the Laconia Daily Sun urging the state to consider funding full-day kindergarten and early childhood education for Granite State children. Here’s the full letter:

To The Daily Sun,

Our state continues to struggle with a tragic opioid epidemic, which has caused an increase of crime in our communities.

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.

We must do more to provide a high-quality early education for our kids. There are too many benefits to ignore.

In New Hampshire and across the country, early learning programs such as high-quality pre-K and full-day kindergarten have shown lasting gains in academic achievement, increased graduation rates and reduced crime rates.

Children living in poverty who don’t participate in high-quality early education programs are much more likely to drop out of school and not attend college.

Additionally, they are 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime and 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent.

Simply put, kids who don’t have access to high-quality education early in life often start behind and don’t catch up to their peers. Not only does that affect their chances of success later in life, but our society in general experiences the repercussions.

Even the most advanced and well-resourced police forces can only go so far to stop crime. Technology and equipment can only do so much. The best way to stop crime is to prevent it from happening. Fundamental changes to existing systems are the way to do this, starting with full day kindergarten. I believe providing a full day of kindergarten to our youngest residents will help keep them in school longer and prepare them for college down the road, decreasing their likelihood to turn to crime. High-quality early education is one key to ensuring the safety and security of our communities.

There is no question that lack of funding for full-day kindergarten is one of the biggest hurdles for children here in the Granite State. But the cost of investing in early education now is less than paying for costly interventions later. This is a smart and necessary investment.

Fortunately, there is bipartisan support for funding full-day kindergarten here in New Hampshire.

Last month, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced House Bill 155, legislation that would provide funding for full-day kindergarten programs in New Hampshire.

I urge the members of the Legislature to pass this bill and make sure all kids in our state have the opportunity to attend a high-quality, full-day kindergarten program.

Scott Hilliard
Merrimack County Sheriff

Read the full letter here.