To effectively address New Mexico’s interlocking problems, this free-tuition idea can avoid regrettable results if we learn from the Yazzie-Martinez litigation and the Lottery Scholarship outcome data.
“We will look poverty in the face,” Lujan Grisham said in the keynote address at the annual Kids Count Conference in Albuquerque. “… It is an evil in our state, and it must be dealt a death blow.” Lujan Grisham spoke to about 500 people gathered for the conference, organized by the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children.
“We all saw the report last week,” Lujan Grisham said Wednesday at a conference organized by the nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. She was referring to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book, an annual report by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, which assesses how kids in each state are faring on several measures, from health care to education to poverty.
Noting New Mexico’s Public Education Department is under a court order to make more investments in its schools, James Jimenez, executive director of the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, said in an email that increasing those rates in the future is “just plain common sense” and will help the state meet the court mandates to improve public education.
New Mexico offers pre-K services in both public schools and private early care facilities. While the two types are fairly comparable, the salaries are not. Pre-K teachers at public schools are paid the same salary as K-12 teachers, have the same employee benefits and are required to have specific education credentials. That matters, because the level of pre-K quality is largely determined by teacher education.
"Children do best in families, and being part of a family is a human need and essential to well-being," she said. "So, we'll be really prioritizing finding foster homes, both relative and non-relative, for these youths that are still being sent to group homes or institutions."
The nonprofit New Mexico Voices For Children recently issued a news release that cites an estimate that the feds will have as much as a $1 billion shortfall to pay for the count, along with the dire prediction that “Trump’s underfunding … is likely to hurt NM.”
First and foremost, we need to do what’s best for our children. Spending money and time on aggressive litigation against a court order that simply requires us to educate our children at the standard set forth in our own constitution is not what’s best for our children. Our K-12 education system needs fundamental change, and that will not occur unless we place a relentless focus on improving what’s happening in the classroom, not “winning” in the courtroom.
Amber Wallin, deputy director for New Mexico Voices for Children, called the new Early Childhood department “big,” creating opportunity for the state to coordinate programs and ensure children who need them get all the services they are qualified for.
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.