N.H. House Speaker: Sununu's Full-Day Kindergarten Plan 'Another Expansion Of Government'

Mar 28, 2017

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

House Speaker Shawn Jasper says it shouldn't be a surprise House Republicans aren't backing Gov. Chris Sununu's plan to spend $18 million in the next two-year state budget to fund full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire.

"Republicans I think look at the fact that that's another expansion of government," the Hudson Republican said, speaking to NHPR's Morning Edition Tuesday. "It's no secret that when half-day kindergarten was put in the budget, we were almost unanimously opposed to it at the time, so it shouldn't be any surprise that moving forward, we were not in favor of expanding that."

The House Finance Committee nixed Sununu's proposal, which would help subsidize full-day programs in communities that choose to offer it. It does not mandate districts to go beyond what's currently required, which is only a half-day program.

Jasper said there were aspects of Sununu's proposal that weren't "fully explained."

"The governor's plan was presented as a way to get people back to work. And one of the things I don't think was ever fully explained is that money would go to a city like Manchester,  which already has full-time kindergarten. So if that was going to put mothers back to work, that would have already taken place. So there was obviously a concern I had and others shared that if we're giving money just replacing local money, we're not reaching the goal."

Jasper says that while there is value in kindergarten, he questions the need for full-time programs in every community.

"There is a lot of learning that goes on there, a lot of socialization, but at that age, most children are not going to be able to be fully engaged for a full day."

The committee has trimmed Sununu’s initial $12.1 billion budget plan down to roughly $11.9 billion. The committee passed the budget by a 16-9 vote Tuesday, with two Democrats supporting it.

It now goes to the full House for a vote next week. After that, the Senate will begin work on its own version of the state budget, which could include Sununu's kindergarten proposal.

The House had $59 million less to use in drafting its budget than Sununu did, which Jasper said drove much of the approach the Finance Committee took in looking for places to cut. He called on those in his party to support the budget next week.

"I believe it is a very responsible budget House Finance is going to pass out of committee, and I believe the House will adopt it," he said.