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Letter: Keno-kindergarten bill makes bad policy



For the Monitor
Friday, July 14, 2017
Keno-kindergarten bill makes bad policy

In each of the past two years, we’ve sponsored bills that would direct the state to fund kindergarten the same way it funds grades 1-12. It’s hard to imagine why we would now be against a bill that extends state funding to full-day kindergarten programs. So let’s look at the details.

Senate Bill 191 started out as a good bill to fund kindergarten the same way the state funds grades 1-12. The bill received strong bipartisan support in both chambers and reflected the overwhelming support for full-day kindergarten from people across the Granite State. Even after it was amended by the House to fold in keno, it still funded kindergarten exclusively through the education trust, like how grades 1-12 are funded. And it had our support.

But after closed-door meetings held at the 11th hour, the bill was changed so it does not treat kindergarten the same way. Instead it introduces the concept that state support for public education can be conditional on speculative revenue sources, in this case keno. So if keno doesn’t generate at least $15 million in revenue (and it’s estimated to be in the $7 million to $12 million range), school districts would receive less than the full amount of the state education grant for each kindergarten student. And if it’s okay to treat kindergarten this way, why not the other grades too?

The governor and leaders in the House and Senate had no trouble finding close to $22 million in tax breaks to give to America’s largest companies, many with headquarters out of state. That could have easily covered the remaining cost of full-day kindergarten. But instead it’s wait-and-see and hope we get lucky.

We’re glad the Legislature finally recognized the importance of full-day kindergarten. But the state needs to provide education funds that school districts can count on and not just leave it to chance.

Rep. David Luneau

Hopkinton

Rep. Mel Myler

Contoocook

(Rep. Luneau serves on the House Commerce Committee and is a member and former chair of the Hopkinton School Board. Rep. Myler serves on the House Education Committee and is a former executive director of NEA-NH.)