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.
Four factors determine the Kids Count rankings: education, health, economic well-being, and family and community. The non-profit organization NM Voices for Children says changes to the state’s health data played a major role in moving New Mexico from 49th to 50th.
"It's time for citizens to really push these candidates on what they're going to do to improve child well-being," he insisted. "There are a lot of solutions out there if we really believe children are our most important asset."
“The data show we are at a crossroads,” James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said in a news release. “We can continue to disinvest in our children or we can insist upon a new direction, one in which we make a deep commitment to improving conditions for all New Mexicans.”
“For 15 years we have made poor policy decisions that gutted our state’s general fund, which means there’s been an inability to invest in programs that we know make a difference to children,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which runs the state’s Kids Count program. “We have tried to tax- and budget-cut our way to prosperity, and it has not worked.”
“The data says to me that the policy approach that we have taken over the last eight to 10 years has not been working,” said James Jimenez, executive director of the Albuquerque-based advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children, which works closely with the Casey Foundation. “It says that we really don’t have much of a commitment to improving the lives of children,” Jimenez added.
New Mexico Voices for Children and CHI St. Joseph’s Children, both of which were sponsors of Monday’s conference, have long pushed for using additional money from the land grant permanent fund to pay for early childhood education. Proposals for such often get held up in the Senate Finance Committee.
Monday’s conference was sponsored by New Mexico Voices for Children, an Albuquerque-based group that advocates for more funding and programs to help young children. The event took place just days before the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation plans to release its annual Kids Count report.
"Childcare is very expensive; it is more expensive than tuition at UNM,” says Kayne. “These are generally young parents who are starting out, and they simply don't have the kind of income that allows them to either have high-quality childcare, or have one parent stay home and take care of kids."
She said since NM Voices started pushing for the constitutional amendment, state funding for early childhood initiatives has expanded by 60 percent, “so there has been some significant improvement. It’s just taking a very long time. And you know, babies can’t wait to grow up.”