- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire House gave an initial green light Thursday to more money for full-day kindergarten, marking success for one of Gov. Chris Sununu’s top initiatives and revealing yet another divide among Republicans.

Just 87 Republicans joined with Democrats in backing the measure, which promises to give full funding to any school district that adopts full-day kindergarten. Nearly 75 percent of New Hampshire communities already offer it, but the state only pays half the normal per-student amount for kindergarteners.

“This bill is not mandating that everybody have a full-day kindergarten program,” Republican Rep. Rick Ladd said as he implored his colleagues to back the measure. “It is a local choice bill where you have the option as a community to decide which way you’re going to go.”

Sununu has pushed funding full-day kindergarten as a key to attracting more businesses and workers to New Hampshire and relieving young parents of worrying about child care. But other Republicans argued the bill is a misuse of state money and will remove control from parents and local schools.

“The original intent of kindergarten was play-based education that involved movement, music and exploration,” Republican Rep. Victoria Sullivan said. “It was never intended for five year olds to be sitting at a desk for six hours a day.”

No Democrats got up to speak in favor of the bill.

Thursday’s vote wasn’t final - the legislation now goes to the House Finance Committee to discuss the roughly $14 million price tag. But the vote indicated that there is likely enough Republican support to get a kindergarten bill through this year.

Sununu certainly hopes so.

“I believe strongly that this is the right thing to do,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature as the measure moves forward.”

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