“Despite knowing how important early childhood programs are for children’s healthy development and success, the LFC proposal continues to short-change the ECCE programs that give all New Mexico children the chance to reach their full potential,” Jimenez said.
The real problem is that child care assistance in New Mexico has not been funded as much more than a work support program for parents. We’ve never made the investments that would be needed in order to address the multi-dimensional needs of kids in our state and see the increases in school readiness that we know the program can provide. It’s like setting aside only enough money to buy a subcompact and then complaining that it’s not as roomy as an SUV.
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.