It’s a well-known fact that New Mexico has one of the worst education systems in the country. The 2021 Kids Count report from New Mexico Voices for Children shows New Mexico recently ranked last among states for education. This shouldn’t be a surprise to students or their parents who feel our state’s education system is failing them.
“Equality of opportunity is not something that just happens,” said the organization’s deputy director, Amber Wallin. “Moving forward, we have to pass policy that supports families, prioritizes children and … improves opportunities for women and communities of color in our state.”
In New Mexico, we have lived through many boom-and-bust cycles of the oil and gas industry. But recent years have shown just how much we need to break this cycle - particularly as we plan for the transition from oil and gas to clean energy - by tipping the scales away from the oil and gas corporations and back toward New Mexicans who have shouldered the consequences.
“This bill is about ensuring a better future for kids,” James Jimenez said. “For years, New Mexico has relied on oil and gas to fund our children’s education programming. But as we battle climate change and protect our land and public health, it’s vital that states like New Mexico are able to diversify their economies.”
Wallin noted that families of color were especially hard-hit by school closures and other economic impacts from the pandemic and now, should have more peace of mind. "They're able to better afford housing needs and ensure they can buy their kids back-to-school clothes," said Wallin. "But also it's helping them go back to work, afford necessities and helping our economy get back on track as well."
“We refuse to recognize that tribal people do, in fact, know best how to educate their children. That is systemic racism,” said New Mexico Voices for Children Director James Jimenez.
Incremental improvements show us both that progress is possible and also that creating the nurturing environments our kids deserve and need to thrive will require bold and sustained actions and investments.
“It’s encouraging to see that child wellbeing in New Mexico was improving before the pandemic hit,” said James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, which partners with the foundation. He’s cautiously optimistic that state policies “helped offset some of the health and financial problems caused by the pandemic.”
New Mexico traditionally has not done well in the Kids Count rankings, usually swapping the 49th and 50th spots with Mississippi. But Jimenez said there are some reasons for optimism as New Mexico looks to the future, including the expansion of Medicaid several years ago and a just-passed working families tax credit that could reduce child poverty.
“It’s encouraging to see that child well-being was improving before the pandemic hit,” said James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children. “We’re cautiously optimistic that investments the state made in children and families beginning in 2019 – as well as throughout the pandemic – helped offset some of the health and financial problems caused by the pandemic."