by George Gamble, Santa Fe New Mexican
Enough is enough. New Mexico is and has been at the bottom of every national measure of child well-being and educational achievement for years. Too often we read reports about the needs and underachievement of the child care and educational system in our state (“Study: N.M. has nation’s worst high school grad rate,” May 11, and “Hope comes from home visits,” My View, April 17).
We need to change that. We need serious gubernatorial and legislative leadership that recognizes and supports New Mexico children’s health and educational needs. No more lame excuses regarding increased funding for early childhood education, and no more expensive, glitzy marketing campaigns to prevent child abuse. We need more funding for direct services for child care, home visitation and social workers and nurses. Where does our governor and your legislator stand on this issue? Let’s get going and invest in New Mexico’s children — they are our only future.
To promote an ambitious statewide investment in New Mexico’s children, we need both supportive policies and financing. New Mexico Voices For Children (see its website and its “Kids Count 2015 Data Book” at: www.nmvoices.org/nm-kids-count) as well as other state, national and international organizations, have recognized the fundamental need to:
• Provide early childhood education, including high-quality pre-kindergarten education for all N.M. children;
• Provide subsidies to allow parents to afford high-quality child care;
• Expand public funding for home visits by trained nurses and social workers to help parents both before and after childbirth.
In addition to these policies and programs that equip parents and children with the well-being and education to thrive as individuals and families, there also is a need to finance these new and expanded additional services. In recent years, several New Mexico state legislators have entered bills to withdraw additional funds from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund — also known as the “rainy-day fund” — to finance this investment in children’s services. Unfortunately those bills have failed to pass the Legislature despite the fact that New Mexico has one of the largest “rainy-day funds” in the U.S., and those funds were intended to provide for statewide crises.
The current critical needs of New Mexico’s children are a crisis. Public investment in early childhood care and education will result in immediate and long-term benefits to children, families, society and the economy. Healthy, educated children make for capable, creative people and stable families, all of which contributes to a dynamic society and economy.
We need a governor and legislators who recognize the needs of New Mexico’s children, and are willing to support policies and increased state funding to address those needs. All the New Mexico Legislature seats are up for election this year, so every candidate should be asked how they will support children and families to change the services for New Mexico’s children. Find your legislative candidates at https://nmlegis.gov/Publications/2016_Primary_Senate_Candidates.pdf. Will your candidates be champions for our children? Ask them. Let’s get going and invest in New Mexico’s children; they are our only future.
George Gamble is a retired cultural anthropologist who has seen the importance of children’s health and early education programs in Africa and South America, and now in New Mexico. Early investment in children’s health and education results in healthy, productive adults.
Copyright 2016, Santa Fe New Mexican (http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/reader-view-let-s-invest-in-new-mexico-s-children/article_a5b4c25b-76b9-5126-becc-45eb7423d946.html)