"This is really a game changer for our state, being a state that's very large, with a big rural population, tribal population,” Vigil stresses. “This is a really innovative and critical step that our state is taking to address those access needs."
New Mexico is one of many states that have failed to increase per-student funding compared to a decade ago, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). There are 26 states that have made larger investments in K-12 students since 2008, per-student funding in New Mexico remained at nine percent less in 2016 than in 2008, after considering inflation.
Hosts Chris Ramirez and Nathan O'Neal discussed what's in store for New Mexico's children. From the 2020 census to the bills working through the Roundhouse right now, there are many impacts on the future generations. Featured on the show are James Jimenez and Amber Wallin with New Mexico Voices for Children.
Despite rapid economic growth in 2018, a report from New Mexico Voices for Children found that the number of New Mexico children living in poverty is actually increasing — nearly 1 in 3 kids is being raised at or below the poverty line. Thankfully, there are solutions capable of breaking this cycle and setting New Mexico on a path toward giving every child an equal opportunity to succeed.
“People are working – they’re just not making enough to get by,” said Bill Jordan of New Mexico Voices for Children. “It’s time to raise the wage.”
“When you’re living in deep poverty, $300 is a lot of food on the table, and it helps pay one more electricity bill,” said Casau. “Even though it’s not a lot for the poorest of the poor, the fact that we are having copays for families that are in deep poverty is something that is unconscionable.”
For Estela Guzman, a researcher at New Mexico Voices for Children, a statewide advocacy organization, a top priority is to increase the state’s minimum wage. “These people have to work three to four jobs just to make ends meet,” she said, adding that increasing wages is a long-term solution for many. “If the community can’t thrive, we are all missing out.”
“Our state workforces are very underdeveloped,” said Armelle Casau, a policy analyst who authored the report, released this week by the nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. A more skilled workforce would strengthen the state’s economy, the organization argues, and in turn would help lower poverty rates that remain among the worst in the nation.
New Mexico has some 245,000 people, or 31 percent of its workforce, earning low wages at or near a proposed minimum wage of $12 per hour. About 159,000 or nearly 20 percent of workers are paid less than $12, said Sharon Kayne, a spokeswoman at the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, which issued a report in August on the minimum wage based on data from the Economic Policy Institute.
“It’s also going to take more revenue – and it needs to be a more reliable revenue stream than oil and natural gas. If we don’t stabilize our revenue situation, we’ll just have to cut some of these initiatives when oil and gas prices go down. You can’t expect real education reform on a boom-or-bust funding cycle,” he wrote in an email to the Journal.