Stephen Duprey: Full-day kindergarten will boost Concord’s economy

For the Monitor
Sunday, March 11, 2018

The success of Concord’s economy is dependent not only on our current workforce, but future generations and their ability to contribute to it in the years to come.

Concord has one of the best histories in the state when it comes to doing our best for the next generation, and in taking proactive steps to give them the greatest chance at success in life.

We know from advances in neuroscience that by age 5 a child’s brain is nearly completely developed. This is concrete evidence of how critical these earliest years are to the development of a child.

I am grateful to Gov. Chris Sununu for his leadership on this issue. He worked closely with a bipartisan majority of state legislators who understand the benefits of full-day kindergarten and who worked hard last year to ensure a full day of learning for more kids across the state. Thanks to their dedication to kids and families, 9 million more dollars each year will go toward giving our kids a strong start in life.

Now it is time for the school board in Concord to finish the job and provide access for all kids in the city to a full day of kindergarten. Early learning is proven to have immense benefits for those who participate, including lasting gains in academic achievement, increased graduation rates and reduced crime rates. New Hampshire’s own expert on addressing income inequality, Robert Putnam, has identified full-day kindergarten as one of the best tools to help close the opportunity gap – the disparity in skills and life opportunities that is increasing between those who are financially well off and those who are not.

But it’s not only kids who stand to benefit from a longer day of in the classroom.

Research from Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. James Heckman shows the rate of return on investments in early childhood development for many children can be 13 percent per child, per year due to improved outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime.

We can either invest in our kids now or pay for more expensive social services later. As a business owner, I know the smarter decision is to pay for full-day kindergarten.

The Concord School Board is currently considering implementing full-day kindergarten across the district. I have a number of friends on the board and I know the entire board is serious and conscientious of the costs and impacts of all of their decisions on the taxpayers. That said, Concord is one of the few communities in our area that does not have full-day kindergarten.

We know that the quality of a school district is crucial in helping parents decide where to buy their homes. Fully funding full-day kindergarten will help our city draw more families and homeowners, thus broadening our tax base.

Additionally, full-day kindergarten helps families and the community as a whole because it allows parents to work without worrying about finding and paying for quality child care, which is increasingly difficult to find and afford. By allowing parents the flexibility to join and stay in the workforce, our economy can flourish.

When it comes time for a vote later this month, I urge the school board to consider this wise investment in our children and our city’s economy and support bringing full-day kindergarten to Concord. Our entire community deserves it. If we have to tighten our belts elsewhere in our education budget, so be it.

(Stephen Duprey is a local business owner who also is active in New Hampshire Republican politics. He serves as co-chair of the N.H. group, Our Kids, which is dedicated to helping all children have an equal opportunity to succeed in life.)