Let’s invest in educational quality

Five initiatives that promote opportunity, strengthen communities and boost the workforce

Governor Sununu began his inaugural address with a request that Democrats and Republicans work in a bipartisan manner, focusing on New Hampshire’s needs over the next 10 years — issues like educating the workforce the state needs in order to thrive.

In that spirit, we offer five education initiatives to promote equal opportunity, strengthen communities and pave education-to-workforce pathways.

Full-day kindergarten is offered by 60 percent of all New Hampshire elementary schools. However, the state mandates and provides adequacy funds for half-day kindergarten, so taxpayers in full-day districts must cover the costs through higher property taxes. Parents, teachers and researchers know full-day kindergarten is invaluable in providing the educational and behavioral skills children need for further education.

New Hampshire should remove its disincentive to full-time kindergarten and provide equal opportunity for all children, regardless of the wealth of their communities. This is the purpose of our full-day kindergarten adequacy funding bill. 

Likewise, the state has a vested interest in making public schools ready for the 21st century challenges of educating students to be career- and college-ready so New Hampshire can compare favorably with other New England states.

We’ve proposed legislation that ends the moratorium on state contributions to school building improvements and restores state building aid to encourage local communities to make needed safety, technology and accessibility improvement in public school facilities. 

Public high schools also need to ensure students have the career and technical education (CTE) needed to take advantage of workforce opportunities in such fields as advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, automotive repair and building trades. Our bill supports access for sophomores to attend CTEs so they can successfully complete programs, such as pre-engineering, manufacturing or licensed nursing assistants, and take advantage of internships and work experiences as seniors.

A tax credit for contributions to CTEs has been introduced. We also are supporting increased funding for dual pathways so CTE and other high school students can receive college credits at a reduced cost. 

Public community colleges and universities should provide affordable access to higher education to fill New Hampshire job pathways and enable the state to compete for business and good paying jobs. At least 65 percent of all vacancies in New Hampshire by 2025 will require some type of post-secondary education. But currently the majority of high school graduates attend college out of state and the price of New Hampshire public colleges is the highest in the nation, resulting in high student debt.

This is why we support additional state funding for the community college and university systems and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education 65×25 initiatives to make higher education in New Hampshire affordable to our in-state students. 

We are also proposing a program to retain New Hampshire college graduates as in-state employees. Forty-one states have programs that help students repay college loans, but not New Hampshire.

The NH College Graduate Retention Incentive Partnership (GRIP) enlists employers who pay a $1,000 bonus for each year of work completed for the first four years of employment. The only cost to the state is funding to enable the NH Department of Economic Development to market the program to participating employers and to high school and college students. 

These are modest investments in New Hampshire’s future that strengthen educational quality and affordability, pave a pathway to employers and enhance communities and competitiveness. 

Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, and Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, both serve on the NH Senate Education Committee

Categories: Opinion