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Apr 18, 2017 1:30 PM

In rare move, Sununu makes personal pitch for full-day Kindergarten

NH1.COM

CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu says it’s time that New Hampshire “moves forward with full-day kindergarten.”

The first-term governor testified Tuesday in front of the state House of Representatives Education Committee in support of a bill to spend $18 million over two years to fund full-day kindergarten expansion across the state.

Governors rarely testify in front of legislative panels. This was just the second time the governor’s sat before a committee, following his appearance on behalf of his budget at a joint state House-Senate Finance Committee hearing in February.

"I think everybody knows how passionate I am about this," Sununu told the lawmakers on the panel.

The governor highlighted that full-day kindergarten is not only an educational issue but also a workforce development matter. He said as he courts out-of-state companies to re-locate in New Hampshire, they question him about the state’s lack of full-day kindergarten.

"Families in Quebec were even talking about it,” the governor said, referring to his recent trip to Canada to court new business.

"If we are talking about a viable workforce and attracting business this matters,” Sununu added.

The governor also said that “it’s critical in closing the opportunity gap.”

Sununu raised the issue last year as he campaigned for governor, and highlighted full-day kindergarten expansion state-wide in his early January inaugural address. In his budget address in February, the governor called for $18 million over the two-year budget to be handed out in grants to communities with high levels of low-income students or those learning the English language.

On March 30, the state Senate overwhelming passed a bill modeled after the governor’s proposal. But the bill, known as SB191, faces a tougher road in the House, where there’s more skepticism among GOP leadership over the benefits of full-day kindergarten.

While Republican leadership is not taking a stance on the measure, House Speaker Shawn Jasper told NH1 News on Tuesday that the bill will be given a full up or down vote in the chamber.

In a sign of bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and Democratic Sen. David Watters, the author of the bill, testified together following the governor’s appearance.

"We are taking a major step forward," Bradley said. "This is a reasonable way to proceed."

Waters highlighted that “in New Hampshire, we believe in local control”

The lawmaker from Dover added that it will still be up to local officials to decide how their “classrooms are set up and how they’re supervised. All the good things that local school boards and superintendents do.”

State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and Sen. David Watters of Dover testify on behalf of full-day kindergarten in front of the House Education Committee, on April 18, 2017

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