by Bill Jordan
August 19, 2014
A recent report from the State Investment Council shows that New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) is growing at a robust pace and now exceeds $13.8 billion. It’s the second largest fund of its kind in the nation and we spend a small portion of it every year on education and other important services.
Meanwhile, New Mexico remains the worst state in which to raise a child. Only a small fraction of our youngest children have access to the high-quality early childhood care and learning services that are shown to improve their outcomes all the way into adulthood.
That we have the resources—through our multi-billion-dollar permanent fund—to turn things around for our kids and the state but we won’t use them is obscene.
Even with record-breaking returns from the stock market and projections of long-term windfalls from oil and natural gas production, all the evidence suggests that our own children would be a better investment for the state. The payoff would be a stronger state economy and better quality of life for all. High-quality child development services have been proven to yield between a 10 and 16 percent return. This return accrues not just to the child, in the form of better outcomes, but to everyone. These services save money on special education and other remediation programs, cut down on costs associated with juvenile justice, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and much more. They ensure that more kids go to—and finish—college. They prepare children for future success, and since today’s kids are tomorrow’s workforce, we would all benefit from their success. New Mexico would finally have what it takes to draw high-wage jobs to our state—an exceptional workforce and people with plenty of money to buy goods and services.
New Mexico has some very effective home visiting, child care, and pre-K programs, but they reach just a fraction of the children who could most benefit. The Legislature has increased funding over the last few years, but at this pace a full roll-out will take decades. By then it will be too late for most of today’s kids. Still, our lawmakers have refused to allow the people to vote on whether to invest just 1 percent of our nearly $14 billion permanent fund on improving child well-being. If the initial 2011 proposal to invest 1.5 percent of the LGPF had passed and the voters had approved it in 2012, the LGPF balance would have grown to about $13.4 billion instead of $13.8 billion. But we would have invested in tens of thousands of our most vulnerable young kids. We’d be putting them—and the whole state—on a course for success. We invested it in Wall Street instead.
Anyone who cares about improving outcomes for our children must find that offensive to their sense of morality or decency.
Bill Jordan is Senior Policy Advisor/Governmental Relations for NM Voices for Children. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.