by Brett McPherson, Public News Service – NM
June 13, 2017

Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. – New Mexico is second to last among states in rankings for children’s well-being just out today.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation compiles 16 indicators of how kids and families are doing in terms of the economy, education, health and community conditions in its 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

While New Mexico gets low rankings for its lack of economic and educational progress, there are some bright spots in the report, according to New Mexico Voices for Children Executive Director James Jimenez. He notes the state’s ranking rose from 44th to 37th for children’s health.

“We have some terrific partners that we work with here in New Mexico, and the Legislature has done a decent job trying to increase funding for some of these programs,” Jimenez says. “We’re not nearly where we need to be, but we have made some progress.”

A bipartisan 2016 Legislature included more funding for Medicaid programs, among others, but they were vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez in her efforts to prevent tax increases. The state has yet to see the economic recovery that many others have enjoyed since the Recession.

The Casey Foundation report confirms the sluggish New Mexico economy, dropping its ranking from 20th to 27th for the number of families burdened by spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Child poverty showed almost no change, coming in at 49th, up only one position from last place, last year.

Jimenez points to one area that could affect all others: early childhood efforts.

“Probably the most important thing that we could do is really invest in our early childhood education and care programs, things like pre-kindergarten to home visiting,” he says. “All the programs that really help families position children to be able to thrive once they get to our education system. ”

Only Mississippi ranked lower than New Mexico in child well-being, according to the report. The number one position went to New Hampshire.

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