“New Mexico tried for too long to tax-cut its way to prosperity, and the dismal results should surprise no one. We know that the best way to prosperity is with investments,” Jimenez told InsideSources.
“The one area where she did do well in, and we give her credit for, is the Medicaid expansion. That had an immediate and dramatic impact on some of the health stats for our children,” Jimenez said. That action cut the child uninsurance rate in half, from 10% down to 5%, with New Mexico zooming past 12 states in that area.
Lawmakers pushed a slew of bills through during the 2019 Legislative session addressing education inequities, and the governor signed many of them. But those efforts will take a while to be felt on the ground, experts say. This is the second year in a row, and the third time overall, that New Mexico ranked 50th in the nation in an overall score based on individual rankings in four categories.
“It’s disappointing, but not terribly surprising to see New Mexico ranked at the bottom again, given the last 10 years,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which runs the state’s Kids Count program. “It is going to take sustained investment to undo the damage from a decade of underfunding all of our child-serving programs and services like health care, child care and K-12 education.”
The Kids Count report found that 18% of the nation’s children live in poverty, down from the Great Recession. But the same advances weren’t seen in the Southwest, where many children are Native Americans, Latinos and immigrants who have long faced disadvantages. “The nation’s racial inequities remain deep, systemic and stubbornly persistent,” said the annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Those at New Mexico Voices for Children, an advocacy group that runs the state’s KIDS COUNT program, also praised legislation to increase the state’s Working Families Tax Credit, which they said benefits more than 200,000 children every year. It is not surprising that the data from 2017 reflected in this year’s report would be so poor. That was the tail end of an eight-year term by Gov. Martinez filled with budget deficits and constant fights over education reform.
Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children, says it will take sustained investment to undo the damage from a decade of under-funding of programs that serve families."We're seeing big disparities for our children of color,” she states. “And this is really problematic, especially in New Mexico, because 75% of our kids are children of color. But we also think we've made a lot of progress this legislative session in trying to create some opportunities for our kids."
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.
“Laws exist in the U.S. for people to take action when they feel that the government is failing to protect human health and resources,” says Douglas Meiklejohn, New Mexico Environmental Law Center Executive Director.
He adds that jobs designed to capture wasted methane also would enhance the state's economy. "We've seen, for example, in states like Colorado that have enacted commonsense methane-capture regulations, that the industry can adapt and it can be part of growing the economy," he points out.