By Jessica Cowdrey and Amber Wallin, Santa Fe New Mexican
July 1, 2022
Investing in high-quality early care and education is one of the best things that New Mexico can do to help all children thrive and reach their full potential. Despite what some might say (“N.M. should think twice about universal pre-K,” June 26), well-funded programs that support parents from before birth through age five are common sense ways to improve New Mexico’s future.
Come November, New Mexicans have the opportunity to join a movement of parents, care providers, educators and others by voting to expand education and early childhood programs and enact transformational change for children and families across the state.
Early childhood policy is some of the most well-studied and evidence-supported public policy there is. From research by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman that demonstrates improved education, health, and economic outcomes for young children in high quality early childhood programs to recent work by the National Bureau of Economic Research that links preschool to improved college attendance rates and decreased juvenile incarceration to a 2021 accountability report from New Mexico’s own Legislative Finance Committee that shows that “evidence for the effectiveness of prekindergarten and early childhood programs continues to grow,” a mountain of evidence shows high-quality, affordable early childhood education and care programs can provide big benefits for families with young children.
But working parents with young children don’t need a stack of research papers to tell you that being able to afford enriching, safe spaces for their kids to grow and learn is a fundamental need for their families. Brand new first-time parents don’t need economists to tell them the value of having a trained professional help them understand their infant’s development and connect them to key family resources. Businesses don’t need control groups and decades of studies to tell you that when workers have reliable child care, they are more dependable employees.
There’s plenty to be excited about in New Mexico when it comes to early childhood policy because our state has taken a number of really smart steps that have made us a leader in the nation in creating opportunities for young children to thrive.
We were one of the very first states to create a Cabinet-level state agency focused on early childhood, we’ve prioritized linguistically and culturally sustaining programs like child care, pre-K and home visiting in funding decisions, and we’ve temporarily expanded child care assistance so that nearly all families in the state have the financial resources to be able to send their kids to quality, safe places to grow and learn while they are at work.
These crucial programs are already proving successful. Now isn’t the time to pull up the rug, it’s time to double down and use our state’s Permanent School Fund — which is meant to support New Mexico’s children — to ensure that families can access them now and into the future.
New Mexico is not like any other state. Our people, our traditions and our communities are unique. This November, voters have the opportunity to approve a ballot question that would bring data driven, transformational change to our state to level the playing field for hardworking New Mexico families, giving all of our kids, regardless of family income, a fair opportunity to thrive.
Jessica Cowdrey is vice president of operations at CHI St. Joseph’s Children, and Amber Wallin is executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children.