CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — With a crowd of youngsters looking on, New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill Wednesday that achieves one of his top priorities: state funding for full-day kindergarten.
Nearly 75 percent of New Hampshire communities already offer full-day kindergarten, but the state only pays half the standard per-student amount for those pupils, or about $1,800. Under the new law, the state will provide an additional $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student starting in 2019 and more in later years depending on how much money is generated by the newly-legalized keno lottery. The decision to allow keno, which is often played in bars and restaurants, would be up to each community.
Sununu, a Republican, initially proposed a $9 million-per-year, need-based grant system that would’ve funded programs for districts with lots of low-income families but it wouldn’t have covered the full costs elsewhere. He joined children, parents and advocates in singing the alphabet song at Penacook Elementary School before signing the bill.
“I made a very strong commitment to the people of this state, and I’m just thrilled we got it done,” Sununu said. “It wasn’t easy, sometimes politics came into play. But I can tell you, like a lot of things that got done in this legislative session, it wasn’t arm twisting, it wasn’t ultimatums, it was simply talking through the issue and working in a bipartisan, constructive way to get things done.”
The governor added: “I think this was a great model of not just how to get things done in New Hampshire, but frankly the rest of the country and especially Washington, D.C., can take a lesson from the work we did.”
Critics say Sununu failed to deliver on his campaign promises because the law doesn’t provide full funding.
“The governor failed to fulfill his campaign promise to treat kindergartners like any other grade and in fact he tethered kindergartners to keno gambling losses,” Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said earlier Wednesday.
But fellow Democratic Sen. David Watters of Dover said achieving 80 percent of the standard per pupil allotment was a huge step forward.
“That’s 80 percent of the way. If any school got 80 percent proficiency (on standardized tests) they would be celebrating, so let’s say the Legislature got 80 percent proficiency on this,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll keep working together on full funding.”
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