Our Turn: It’s time to support full-day kindergarten

By Lindsay Hanson, Christina D’Allesandro and MaryLou Beaver for the Concord Monitor

Thursday, January 12, 2017
Today, in the House Education Committee, bipartisan legislation to finally fully support full-day kindergarten will be heard. Full-day kindergarten has solid bipartisan support. In fact, Gov. Sununu expressed support for full funding of full-day kindergarten during the campaign, and recent polling commissioned by Save the Children Action Network shows about 70 percent of Granite State voters agree that funding full-day kindergarten should be a major budget priority.

The central mission of all our organizations – Save the Children Action Network, MomsRising and Every Child Matters in New Hampshire – is to give every child a strong start in life and an equal opportunity to succeed.

Evidence-based research shows that children from birth to age 5 who lack access to high-quality early learning programs often start to fall behind their peers, and many never catch up. A recent report from a Nobel Prize-winning economist in December 2016 shows an annual rate of return on investments in early childhood development for many children can be $13 for every $1 invested due to improved outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime.

A full-day of learning offers greater social, emotional and intellectual benefits to kindergartners. They have more time to focus on activities, to reflect on what they have learned and to transition between tasks. Overall, children in full-day kindergarten programs are more likely than children in half-day kindergarten programs to devote time every day to reading, mathematics and social studies.

Further research demonstrates that children adjust well to the full-day format. While some may argue that full-day kindergarten is too much for kids, research shows that 5-year-olds are more than ready for a longer day. They also do better in a setting that allows them time to learn and explore activities in depth.

In New Hampshire and across the country, early childhood programs such as high-quality pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten have been shown to result in lasting gains in academic achievement, increased graduation rates and reduced crime rates. Specifically, full-day kindergarten closes achievement gaps between young children from minority and low-income families and their peers. By providing a solid foundation of learning to children from all backgrounds, full-day kindergarten programs ensure all students’ academic, social and emotional success.

Investing in early-childhood education is the most effective way to break the cycle of poverty and help close the opportunity gap. These investments lay the foundation for success in school, career and life. The type of environment and the quality of interaction to which children are exposed in the first five years of life greatly influence the outcomes of their adult lives. For these reasons and many more, investing in full-day kindergarten is a no-brainer.

We hope members of the Legislature will join us in support of adequately funding a full-day of kindergarten for all Granite State families.

It’s a smart investment in the future of our children and our state.

(Lindsay Hanson is the New Hampshire government relations manager for Save the Children Action Network. Christina D’Allesandro is the New Hampshire director at MomsRising. MaryLou Beaver is the director of Every Child Matters in New Hampshire.)

Originally published January 12 in the Concord Monitor.