Top state House Democrat says on NH1 Newsmakers he will push next week to revive full-day kindergarten $$
CONCORD – Expect a showdown next week on the floor of the New Hampshire’s House of Representatives over Gov. Chris Sununu’s $18 million proposal to fund full-day kindergarten across the state.
House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff vows he’ll introduce an amendment to “bring back full-day kindergarten” when the budget passed by the House finance committee will be voted on next Wednesday by the full chamber.
“The House Democrats will be bringing in an amendment to bring back full-day kindergarten,” the top Democratic in the House said on the latest edition of NH1 Newsmakers. “We think it’s good for New Hampshire, we think it’s something that should be done.”
In February the state’s first GOP governor in a dozen years proposed spending $9 million-a-year in the two-year budget (that will go into effect on July 1) to help the state’s neediest communities afford to expand to full-day kindergarten.
But over the past two weeks, the Republican dominated House Finance Committee dropped the funding as it passed its budget for the next biennium. One reason House budget writes cut the funding was because their revenue estates for the state for the next two years were lower than that of the governor’s budget team. But another reason was opposition by top House Republicans to the need for full-day kindergarten.
"Republicans I think look at the fact that that's another expansion of government," House Speaker Shawn Jasper told NHPR on Tuesday.
And he questioned the effectiveness of full-day kindergarten, adding that "there is a lot of learning that goes on there, a lot of socialization, but at that age, most children are not going to be able to be fully engaged for a full day."
Responding to those comments and others by House GOP leaders, Shurtleff told NH1 News that “I’m somewhat surprised by some of the harsher rhetoric towards it.”
Majority Leader Dick Hinch, the number two House Republican, predicted on NH1 Newsmakers that Shurtleff’s amendment would not succeed.
But he didn’t totally write off the funding, saying “kindergarten or any other program that was in the governor’s original proposal is by no means dead. It may not be in the current budget but there will still be conversations about it as it goes through the process next week and as it goes through the Senate.”
“I would say at this point nothing is a done deal in the budget at this point,” he added.
Republicans also hold the majority in the state Senate and leaders in that chamber are much more receptive to the governor’s $18 million proposal. The Senate on Thursday overwhelming passed a bill to fund Sununu’s program.
The vast difference on kindergarten funding will eventually have to be hammered out during a House-Senate committee of conference on the budget that would convene later this spring.
After Thursday’s Senate vote, the governor said in a statement that "I applaud the Senate today for passing a targeted full-day kindergarten program that will provide financial support to communities that choose to create such programs.”
And last week he told reporters that “full-day kindergarten is absolutely necessary here in New Hampshire.”
“The rest of the country has taken this step. It’s time that New Hampshire step up and move forward with something that probably should have been done a long time ago,” Sununu added.
On Friday the governor kept up his pitch for his proposal, holding a round table discussion on full-day kindergarten with the Derry/Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.