The fate of “Keno-garten” at its full House and Senate vote on Thursday is unclear, according to the Union Leader’s State House Dome. At the Committee of Conference on June 15, lawmakers proposed additional funding for full-day kindergarten through revenues from Keno, the online lottery game. According to the Union Leader, the bill needs bipartisan support to pass on Thursday. But Democrat support of the bill is unknown:
Democrats feel they’ve been shut out of the budget process and despite their belief in the value of a K-12 public education, many aren’t inclined to hand Sununu a bipartisan achievement he can campaign on in 2018.
They are also unhappy about the way the final bill structures the funding.
“This is something we are still talking about in the Democratic caucus,” said Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, on Friday. “We haven’t reached any conclusions.”
Democrats plan to caucus on Tuesday at the end of a presentation on the proposed state budget, after which their direction might become more clear.
Democrats wanted the second half of the kindergarten day fully funded at $1,800, with the money from Keno going into the state’s Education Trust Fund, and thought they had a deal along those lines.
Instead, the bill before the House and Senate on Thursday guarantees only $1,100 per student each year, linked entirely to the revenue from Keno.
“We’re disappointed because we thought we had a deal. We thought we had an understanding about how we could move forward and help Gov. Sununu meet his campaign promise to do this,” said Shurtleff.
Some Republicans oppose the bill as well. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Morse said that at least four Republican Senators will vote against the bill on Thursday, making Democrats’ support critical to its passage:
“If Democrats aren’t going to vote for this, they are going to tank kindergarten,” he said. “Every child is being considered the same in every part of the state, wealthy or poor. There’s no targeting. That’s a win for them right there. Getting more money for the second half of the day is a win.”