House lawmakers kill Sununu’s full-day kindergarten plan

  • The State House dome is seen on Nov. 18, 2016, as the restoration project nears completion. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Associated Press
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Republican House budget writers rejected GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s plan to spend $9 million to expand full-day kindergarten programs.

A House subcommittee axed the money Wednesday while making changes to Sununu’s $12.1 billion budget plan. It was Democrats who sided with Sununu in maintaining the funding, while members of the governor’s own party fought against it. Sununu has called full-day kindergarten “absolutely necessary.”

Sununu’s plan would have targeted additional kindergarten money to cities and towns with a high percentage of English language learners or low-income students. The price tag for every New Hampshire community to provide full-day programs is closer to $14 million. Right now, districts get half the normal per-student aid from the state for kindergarteners, whether they have full-day programs or not.

Full-day kindergarten is critical for child development and helping parents with young children get back to work, Sununu said.

“It’s time that New Hampshire step up and move forward with something that probably should’ve been done a long time ago,” he said.

Republican Rep. Karen Umberger, who chairs the subcommittee, said she isn’t opposed to full-day kindergarten but simply couldn’t find the money to pay for it. House budget writers have about $59 million less to spend than Sununu allocated, due to differing revenue estimates.

Budget writers also cut a $5 million college scholarship program Sununu proposed. They increased funding for charter schools slightly.

The House will finalize its version of the budget next week.