House and Senate set to fight over Governor’s proposal for full-day kindergarten funding

kindergarten class

In crafting the biennial budget, the House Finance Committee cut Governor Sununu’s proposal to fund full-day kindergarten along party lines, reported NH1 News. But the Senate passed a bill on Thursday that revived the funding, according to the Union Leader.

The proposal targets $9 million per year to the communities who needed it most. After the House cut it from the budget, Governor Sununu urged the Senate to put it back:

“Full day kindergarten is absolutely necessary here in the state of New Hampshire,” he told reporters.

“As I have traveled throughout our state, I’ve heard from many citizens that this is a priority of theirs — in both considering the quality of a community’s public education and in their decision-making process when choosing a place to raise their children,” Sununu said.

The original Senate bill, SB 191, funded all full-day kindergarten programs at a cost of about $14 million per year. It was put aside in late February, but taken up again on Thursday and amended to fit the Governor’s proposal for targeted funding. The bill passed almost unanimously: 21 to 2.

The funding would be targeted to districts with more English Language Learners and low-income students. Those opposed to the funding program said that many districts are already offering full-day programs despite the lack of funding for it, and that the money should go elsewhere. But towns like Concord voted down full-day kindergarten because of funding issues. Dunbarton voted to go back to offering a half-day program because they couldn’t afford it. Last year was the first year they offered full-day kindergarten.

Senator David Watters (Dover) has been an advocate for funding full-day kindergarten, and was a cosponsor of the original SB 191:

“The great thing about this bill is that it also maintains local control. Communities who choose to maintain solely half-day programs have the option to do so while those wishing to expand are also able to do so,” Watters said.

Now, SB 191 goes to the House.

Read the Union Leader’s full article on the Senate plan here. Read NH1 News’ coverage of the House Finance Committee here.