Editorial: Kindergarten and keno don’t mix

Published: 6/21/2017 12:31:34 PM

Let’s start with a simple premise: Full-day kindergarten is a good thing. To reject that statement as false requires a dedicated aversion to common sense and a large body of research, which is why there is widespread bipartisan support for giving 5-year-olds a solid beginning to their public education. As with most good things, the trick is finding a way to pay for it.

In a move that falls into the category of “New Hampshire being New Hampshire,” some in the Legislature have decided that an appropriate way to pay for this clear public good is to introduce a new vice: the lottery game known as keno.

Under the rewritten Senate Bill 191, the state will pay 80 percent of kindergarten adequacy next year, with the rest tied to the success of keno. As Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and Sens. David Watters and Dan Feltes, all Democrats, argued in a Monitor op-ed on Tuesday, even the 80 percent figure is a mirage. There would be nothing to stop the next Legislature from dropping that figure to any other arbitrary percentage it chooses, thus leaving property-tax payers holding the bag. If you don’t think lawmakers would do such a thing, we invite you to read up on the state’s Alcohol Fund, the LCHIP conservation fund and retirement contributions for public employees.

Time and time again, we have argued against expanded gambling in New Hampshire. The people who spend money on games of chance are often the ones who can least afford to lose it, and that feeds the cycle of poverty and adds to the burden on social programs and, ultimately, taxpayers. But even if you don’t buy that argument, asking people to gamble – and lose – in order to pay for a child’s first year of schooling just feels wrong.

There are a lot of good people in the New Hampshire Legislature, both Republicans and Democrats, and we know they can do better than this for their constituents. We urge them to see “Kenogarten” as the deeply flawed plan it is and continue working toward a full-day kindergarten compromise that represents true progress. It would be nice if in the near future the phrase “New Hampshire being New Hampshire” referred to fiscal creativity rather than a reflexive reliance on vice as a funding mechanism.

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