“It’s also going to take more revenue – and it needs to be a more reliable revenue stream than oil and natural gas. If we don’t stabilize our revenue situation, we’ll just have to cut some of these initiatives when oil and gas prices go down. You can’t expect real education reform on a boom-or-bust funding cycle,” he wrote in an email to the Journal.
It will take a concerted, multifaceted effort to significantly improve child well-being because it is dependent on so many factors. But one policy with a proven, positive rate of return is high-quality early childhood care and learning. The first five years of life are critical for laying the foundation for future success, so the investments that we make in those years pay off dividends for children and society for many years — and future generations — down the road.
“It’s a chicken or egg question,” Jordan said. “Do you need the funding or do you need the workforce? Well, you can’t get one without the other. They simply haven’t funded early childhood in the way that they should.”
The average childcare provider in New Mexico only earns about $17,400 a year, according to a 2015 study from the Center for Education Policy and Research at the University of New Mexico. The issue pits low-income workers against low-income parents, explained Sharon Kayne of New Mexico Voices for Children. “The minimum wage is not the culprit,” she said. “The culprit is that the state does not reimburse childcare providers what it actually costs to care for children.”
For instance, if this methane waste and the associated state tax and royalty revenue was captured, the state could increase pre-K enrollment by 50 percent and allow 5,000 more New Mexico kids access to quality early childhood education, according to education advocates New Mexico Voices for Children.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision to gut the Bureau of Land Management methane waste rule means our state will lose out on millions of dollars in royalty revenue that is desperately needed to fund our schools. It makes no sense to waste our resources and tax dollars, especially when it puts our kids’ education on the line. New Mexico’s kids need leaders who will stand up to waste and defend their right to a good education.
The numbers, while encouraging, are not necessarily a comprehensive look at childhood poverty, says Sharon Kayne, communications director for child advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. Kayne pointed out that the poverty line referenced by these statistics is drastically low, around $20,000 a year for a family of three and about $25,000 for a family of four. So, even though the official count holds that 30 percent of New Mexico’s children are living in poverty, Kayne said the percentage of children who struggle with poverty-induced stress on a day-to-day basis is certainly higher.
Pediatric society president Brian Etheridge said it’s a resource for voters to hear from candidates on more detailed questions. "What we're trying to do is draw attention to various issues that obviously affect children," Etheridge said.
“Unfortunately, children are not necessarily a topic of conversation when it comes to elections. People talk about jobs and the economy, which are all very important to child well-being, but there are other issues and we wanted to get some of those out there,” said Sharon Kayne, communications director for NM Voices.
Officials with New Mexico Voices for Children, which partners on the survey, point to a decline in state funding as the cause for many of these problems. Deputy Director Amber Wallin said the state has passed 37 tax cuts since 2008; has reduced per-pupil funding for schools and money for higher education; and has cut back on the number of school-based health centers.