This column first appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Something We Can All Agree On
By Senator Judd Gregg andGovernor John Lynch
The 2016 Presidential contest iswell under way. We in New Hampshire areabout to make choices in our First in the Nation Primary that will havefar-reaching ramifications for our nation.
We have an incredible responsibilityevery four years to use our strong New Hampshire values and judgment to helpshape the national debate and select who our next President will be.
We also get to witness first handjust how frustrating and polarizing the political process can be, and how theissues that divide us often seem to control the discussion of the day. Yet ascitizens and neighbors, we know we share common ground.
As representatives from oppositeparties, we strongly believe in an issue that transcends politics andstrongly reflects our core values: support for national service. Nationalservice harnesses America’s most powerful resource – the energy and talents ofour citizens – to improve communities, impact lives, and tackle some of thebiggest challenges facing our nation. Not only is this an issue that we bothagree on, voters across the country overwhelmingly support an increasedinvestment as well.
A recent poll conducted in nine presidentialbattleground states, including New Hampshire, shows overwhelming supportfor robust federal investments in national service. After learning the detailsabout national service, 83% of voters said they would like to maintain orincrease the levels of spending and investment, including 78% ofRepublicans, 84% of Independents, and 90% ofDemocrats -- and even 78% of Tea Party supporters.
New Hampshire, where residentshave long embodied what it means to be active citizens, relies heavily onvolunteers whether its neighbor helping neighbor, mentors andteachers guiding children, or communities coming together to clean up parks,stock food pantries and support one another. National service is makingthat happen and has fueled our growth in volunteerism over the past20 years. In fact, each AmeriCorps member leverages more than 40 communityvolunteers by providing regular volunteer management. The bang for thebuck is compelling and badly needed: economists estimate that every dollarinvested in national service generates almost $4 returned to society in higherearnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits.
One proven, cost-effective nationalservice program helping to make a difference here is City Year NewHampshire (CYNH). Serving in eight of Manchester's high-povertyschools, City Year AmeriCorps members provide struggling students with theadditional support they need to advance toward high school graduation preparedfor college, careers, and successful lives. And it's working. According to arecent third-party study, schools that partner with City Year across thecountry are two to three times more likely to improve on state assessments inEnglish and math -- and an overwhelming 98% of students tutored by CYNHimproved their literacy scores.
Other well-known New Hampshireorganizations that use national service members to deliver their missions anddrive results include the Student Conservation Association, which engagesAmeriCorps members in environmental stewardship projects, and the US FIRSTFoundation, which fuels innovation in education focused on science, technology,engineering and math.
Americans overwhelmingly agree thatnational service prepares young people for the workforce, builds strongneighborhoods and communities, and restores the American values of patriotismand civic duty. Four-in-five voters alsosupported the education awards offered to AmeriCorps alumni, which help todefray ever-rising college costs. (AmeriCorps members earn a college scholarship worth $5,775.) With the largest average student loan debt inthe nation, this is likely a benefit Granite Staters in particular can getbehind.
As we hear more from thepresidential candidates and learn details about their plans for the country’sfuture, a commitment to expanding funding for national service, which is paidfor, should be included. It not only makes moral and fiscal sense, but goodpolitical sense too. Sounds like a great combination for any presidentialcandidate to embrace. We hope we’ll hear them talk about it out on the trail.
Judd Gregg, a Republican,represented New Hampshire in the U.S. Senatefrom 1993-2011. John Lynch, a Democrat, wasthe Governor of New Hampshire from 2004-2013.