Sununu signs historic ‘keno kindergarten’ bill into law

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Gov. Chris Sununu poses with students from Penacook Elementary, where he ceremoniously signed the full-day kindergarten bill into law. Courtesy Photo

CONCORD, NH – Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 191, a bill that will provide full-day kindergarten programs through state-administered grants of $1,100 per student from proceeds earned through keno gambling. He was surrounded by some of his youngest constituents, students from Penacook Elementary School, who spelled Sununu’s name out in colorful alphabet blocks on the table used for signing the bill.

“The investments made today will give New Hampshire’s children a strong foundation for tomorrow’s future. I am proud to be the first governor to deliver a real full-day kindergarten program for communities across our state, which will close the opportunity gap and provide students, regardless of their economic status, an extra step up as they enter the first grade. Full-day kindergarten is good for children and families, and a critical tool in retaining our future workforce,” Sununu said in a statement released after the vote. 

Right now the state pays half it’s per-student amount for kindergarteners, about $1,800. Under the new law, the state will provide an additional minimum of $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student starting in 2019 and more in later years if keno revenues surpass projections.

It’s estimated that the program would provide an additional $14.5 million in education grants for public schools in fiscal year 2018 [see calculations below.] 

Manchester Alderman Pat Long, who is also serves as a Democratic state rep, says he reluctantly voted for the bill.

“I’m not happy with it. I did vote for it, because I think it’s important to start funding kindergarten now. In the 2019 budget we’ll be looking at a minimum of $1.1 million for education, and more if keno does well,” Long said. “But I don’t like the keno aspect.”

Long said the next step is for New Hampshire voters by referendum to decide whether to allow keno in their individual towns and cities. In Manchester, that means the question will be placed on a future municipal election ballot. Manchester would likely be a solid revenue generator for the game of chance, which has been brought before lawmakers unsuccessfully in the past, says Long.  The tie-in to education was decided by a committee of conference prior to the vote and legislators like Long could only vote the measure up or down once it passed the House and Senate.

“So, while I didn’t like the keno component, I had to weigh the lesser of the two evils,” he said.

The goal according to Sununu is to improve education for all New Hampshire students.

Mark Shriver, President of the Save the Children Action Network, a non-partisan non-profit organization that lobbies for educational issues, praised New Hampshire’s expansion of state funding for full-day kindergarten as the right thing for children.

“This legislation is a crucial step forward in ensuring more kids in New Hampshire receive access to a high-quality kindergarten program and a strong start in life. I’m grateful to leaders on both sides of the aisle, especially Governor Sununu and Senator David Watters, who worked across party lines and put kids first,” said Shriver. “While we celebrate this accomplishment, we know there is much more work to do in New Hampshire and across the country in providing all kids access to high-quality early childhood education, which helps ensure a bright future for our economy and nation as a whole.”

From the bill:

According to the language taken directly from the bill, the definition of “average daily membership in attendance” (ADMA), for the purpose of calculating adequate education grants, by eliminating that kindergarten pupils shall count as no more than half day attendance, effective for the FY 2018 education grant payments.  The per pupil base adequacy cost for FY 2018 is $3,636.06, with the kindergarten maximum of $1,818.03.  Based on  preliminary data, which does not include new full-day programs that may have started in September of 2016, traditional public schools will see a total increase of $14,537,978 in adequate education grants in FY 2018 under this bill.

In addition, public charter schools would receive additional funding to the extent they offer full-day kindergarten.  The Department of Education estimates 193 full-day kindergarten students for a total increase in aid of $350,880 (193 X $1,808.03).

FY 2018 Preliminary Data*

 

Current

Proposed

Increase

Adequate Education Grants

$562,488,820

$577,026,798

$14,537,978

Statewide Education Property Tax

$363,148,601

$363,148,601

$0

Total

$925,637,421

$940,175,399

$14,537,978

*Data is not available to provide estimates beyond FY 2018.

 

About Carol Robidoux 5552 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.