Brattleboro Reformer: “NH House should follow in Senate’s footsteps” and fund full-day kindergarten

Governor Chris Sununu told the House Education Committee that wherever he goes, communities talk about New Hampshire’s need for full-day kindergarten. Vermont’s Brattleboro Reformer is no exception–here’s an excerpt from their editorial urging the House to pass the Governor’s kindergarten grant program:

Senators in the Granite State recently voted 21 to 2 to support a bill to fund full-day kindergarten, which would send aid based on a community’s tax base, its number of low-income students and those who speak English as a second language.

The vote was a rare display of bipartisanship in New Hampshire, but it still needs approval from the House of Representatives, which, as NHPR’s Josh Rogers noted, “(D)ivining what’s reasonable in the New Hampshire House, which couldn’t manage to pass a budget this session, isn’t easy right now.”

NHPR’s Josh Rogers notes that even with the level of opposition suggested by [Rep. Victoria] Sullivan, the bill still could pass in the House. “The promise of more money for the 104 communities that now pay for full day kindergarten on their own is just part of it. Backers are pitching the bill as being about more than education. For Sununu, the lack of universal full-day kindergarten is also a vulnerability as he tries to woo businesses to relocate here.”

Rep. Victoria Sullivan writes that supporters of the bill have offered arguments that are largely economic, ranging from easing tax burdens to giving parents the ability to enter back into the workforce. “None of the arguments consider the child. Not all children are ready for full time school at age five.”

But as any working or stay-at-home parent can tell you, what’s best for a child is often having two income earners in the family. Very few families in the Granite State can afford to have only one person bringing home the bacon.

According to N.H. Business Review’s Bob Sanders, “studies confirm that New Hampshire’s disparity has been growing sharply. From 1979 to 2007, the wealthiest 1 percent in New Hampshire captured 35.5 percent of the state’s income growth, according to tax data. From 2009 to 2011 — the heart of the recession — that same group grabbed an 83.3 percent share of the income.”

In other words, the families that have reaped the majority of the benefits from the post-2007 economy are also the families that can afford full-day childcare. Meanwhile, the Granite State’s shrinking middle class is struggling to make ends meet while providing adequate day care for their children. So whether or not New Hampshire decides to fund kindergarten, and eventually pre-k, parents will continue to need child care for their pre-elementary-school-aged children. It’s all well and good to say it should be up to parents and local school boards to decide about funding these programs, but it can also be said that parents should be given the option of sending their children to state-funded pre-k and kindergarten, especially in lower-income communities.

We would urge the N.H. House of Representatives to exercise the bi-partisanship exhibited by the Senate and approve the legislation.

Read the full editorial here.