NH House Education Committee recommends fully funding kindergarten at $14 million-a-year | WMUR

“Panel calls for big increase in Sununu’s $9 million-a-year targeted plan”

John DiStaso reports on WMUR,

The House Education Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend that the full House build on Gov. Chris Sununu’s plan to fund full-day kindergarten by adding $5 million-a-year to the funding level the governor has proposed.

Sununu recommended spending $9 million-a-year to target state funding to the neediest communities that opt to expand their kindergarten programs from half-day to full-day. The state Senate approved Sununu’s targeted plan last month in a 21-2 vote.

But the House committee, on a 15-4 roll call, voted to recommend that the House fully fund kindergarten for all communities that want to expand their programs, regardless of need. The plan would increase the cost from $9 million to $14 million annually.

The bill will be taken up by the full House next week for possible initial approval. If passed, it would then be sent to the House Finance Committee for a review of the source of the funding and a recommendation, before returning to the House.

Committee member Rep. Terry Wolf, R-Bedford, introduced the amendment to restore the funding to its original, $14 million-a-year level – the same amount called for in the bill when it was introduced earlier this year by state Sen. David Watters, D-Dover.

Wolf said that at a recent public hearing, concern was voiced about “the half-day programs that would not get any money and would not be allowed to expand even if they wanted to” under the targeted plan.

“If we really believe that full-day kindergarten is good policy, let’s pass full-day kindergarten,” Wolf said. “I understand that the governor was trying to fund a compromise, and we could have supported it.”

The Republican education committee chairman was also in strong support.

“The $9 million was set aside and it doesn’t grow,” said Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill. “So, the more kids that come into the pie, the amount per student decreases. That results in school districts not being able to properly look forward to what the revenues are going to be and will cause some significant concerns.”

“By funding at $14 million, we fully fund those districts that desire to be funded for the other half of kindergarten,” he said. “I think the amendment has a shot in the House. It was a split among Republicans here on the committee, but it was a bipartisan vote.”

Sununu praised the committee vote, saying, “Today’s actions are a significant step forward for New Hampshire. Full-day kindergarten is good for children, families, and a critical tool in retaining our workforce.”…..

Source: NH House Education Committee recommends fully funding kindergarten at $14 million-a-year