New Hampshire Requiring Kindergarten to Be Offered
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Lawmakers wrapped up a busy legislative season last month after passing measures that would require New Hampshire districts to provide kindergarten and would raise the state’s minimum dropout age.
All but 13 of 153 districts in the state now provide kindergarten, and three have kindergarten programs in the works, according to the state education department.
The $10.3 billion biennial state budget approved by lawmakers—and signed by the governor last month—includes $1.96 billion in state aid to K-12 schools. That’s an increase of $13 million, or less than 1 percent,over the previous biennium, according to John Beardmore, a legislative budget analyst. The budget also includes $4 million to pay for alternative high school programs for students who have trouble succeeding in traditional schools.
The kindergarten requirement was included in the state’s newly crafted definition of what constitutes an “adequate education” under its constitution. The state was required to come up with a definition by July 1 to meet a deadline imposed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a long-running school finance case. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, signed the new definition into law on June 29.
A legislative committee has until Feb. 1 to figure out the price tag for an adequate education. Then it will be up to state lawmakers to devise a school funding system that will satisfy the supreme court.
The law raising the minimum age at which students can leave school from 16 to 18 was a victory for Gov. Lynch, who sees it as a way to curb high dropout rates.
The governor was less successful at persuading members of the House and the Senate, both of which are under Democratic control for the first time in more than 100 years, to back a constitutional amendment that would have weakened the state supreme court’s jurisdiction over education matters. ("N.H. Court Strikes Down School Aid System," Sept. 20, 2006.)
Vol. 26, Issue 43, Pages 22-23