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Gubernatorial Candidates Talk Early Childhood at Forum in Manchester

Jason Moon for NHPR

Six of the seven candidates running for New Hampshire governor participated in a forum on young children today at Saint Anselm College.

The forum was sponsored by Spark NH, an advisory council of governor-appointed early childhood professionals. Attendees included business owners, early childhood professionals, and elected officials.

Questions ranged from the affordability of childcare, to how to teach young children skills like persistence and attention.

Manchester Mayor and Republican candidate Ted Gatsas largely focused on the role of families as a way to address many of the issues raised.

“Some of the other things we have to talk about is how do we get their parents involved. Parental involvement is so important when it comes to education.”

Another prominent issue was how to address the effects of the state’s opioid crisis on children. Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu emphasized early and aggressive prevention in schools as a solution.

“Look, as was mentioned earlier, I’ve got a 5th and 6th grader. My 6th grader will likely be offered pills, drugs, marijuana, in the next two or three years. That’s just a hard fact – a hard conversation I’ve had with my wife, but that’s real. We need to get to these kids before the drug dealers do.”

On the Democratic side, Mark Connolly, Steve Marchand, and Colin Van Ostern all agreed on the need for greater investment in full-day kindergarten. But they differed on how they would pay for it. Here’s Marchand, drawing that distinction.

“One thing you’ll hear these guys talk about is increasing the tobacco tax, which as I say all the time, I don’t like that at all. I have a lot of other places I’m willing to get it. One reason I’m not going there is because the only way you raise the revenue you want is if people keep smoking, which I think is really poor public policy, and I think there are other ways to get it.”

Mark Connolly responded that his plan to fund full-day kindergarten actually rests on a restructuring of the state’s business taxes, which he says many corporations take advantage of.

“And I also believe that the businesses that are gaming the system are not paying their fair share. We can easily come up with 25 to 30 million, just on the business profits tax. And I think that money can go to pre-k and to k.”

Each of these candidates has just two weeks left to make their cases – the state primary is on September 13th.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.
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