8th Annual KIDS COUNT Conference


Download materials from all three sessions here.


Each session was introduced with live music by indigenous violinist Sage Cornelius
Sage Cornelius
Sage is young Native musician from Topeka, Kansas, who effortlessly puts a unique, mean spin on violin. Sage first started playing music at age eight upon hearing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and hasn’t stopped. Since then, Sage has been seen busking on the streets, playing in symphonic orchestras, shredding in metal bands, accompanying mariachi bands, and playing alongside hip-hop artists, as well as touring with national recording soul singer Shawn James.  Sage’s catalog of music embodies multiple genres ranging from cinematic movie themes to EDM anthems, acoustic jams, hip hop tributes, and heavy metal bangers. Sage is also a music teacher and has held various workshops with Native youth and others over the years. He hopes to empower and be an inspiration to all who hear and see him perform. 



Status of Child Well-Being in New Mexico & KIDS COUNT Data Book Release

James Jimenez, Executive Director, NM Voices for Children
James joined NM Voices in 2013 as the Director of Research and Policy, becoming Executive Director in 2016. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico’s School of Public Administration. In both positions he draws from his considerable experience in using the budget as a strategic tool while working in state and city government. James served as the Chief of Staff under Governor Bill Richardson from 2006 to 2008, and as Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration from 2003 to 2006. He was also City Manager for the city of Rio Rancho and serves on the boards of directors for several nonprofit organizations.


Improving Child Well-Being in New Mexico
Michelle Lujan Grisham, Governor, State of New Mexico
Michelle Lujan Grisham is the thirty-second governor of New Mexico and the first Democratic Latina to be elected governor in U.S. history. As governor, she has implemented a series of evidence-based policies aimed at transforming New Mexico’s public education system, expanding the state’s economy to include more high-quality employment opportunities, and preserving New Mexico’s air, land and water. In 2019, she oversaw one of the most productive legislative sessions in state history, signing a broad package of bipartisan bills into law, notably a historic investment in public education and a landmark transition to clean energy. She was a longtime state Cabinet Secretary at both the New Mexico Department of Aging and Long-term Services and Department of Health. She was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2011, serving three terms in Washington on behalf of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. Lujan Grisham was born in Los Alamos and graduated from St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe before earning undergraduate and law degrees from the University of New Mexico.

Trends in Child Well-Being and Preparing for a Recovery for Kids
Karina Jimenez Lewis, Senior Policy Analyst, Annie E Casey Foundation
Karina is a member of the Policy Reform and Advocacy team at Casey, where she works closely with state and national advocates to help inform policy strategies grounded in evidence and data. Her portfolio supports policy strategy implementation through the KIDS COUNT and State Priorities Partnership networks, with an intentional focus on the well-being of young people of color. Karina brings to her policy work a transnational, bilingual, and multiracial understanding of the issues that people of color in the United States face today as well as an approach to complex issues through a policy and strategic lens. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Social Work with a focus on Policy Practice at the University of Connecticut – School of Social Work.
The Status of Children in New Mexico & KIDS COUNT Data Book Release
Amber Wallin, Deputy Director, NM Voices for Children
Amber oversees the organization’s research and policy work with an emphasis on education, tax and budget, hunger, and economic policies. She joined NM Voices in 2012 as a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Fellow, after which she was a Research and Policy Analyst and later KIDS COUNT Director. Amber has worked in the public sector at the municipal, state, and federal levels, working in the government department at New Mexico State University and the budget department at the city of Las Cruces. She received her MPA from NMSU. Born and raised in New Mexico, Amber lives in Albuquerque with her husband and two young children.
Family Economic Security & State Economic Stability and Recovery

Antiracist, Equitable State Response to COVID-19 and Stronger Recovery
Erica Williams, Vice President for State Fiscal Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Erica leads the Center’s 40-person State Fiscal Policy division and supports the development and progress of the State Priorities Partnership, a network of more than 40 state-level fiscal and economic policy shops working to advance racial, gender, and economic justice. Erica oversees several of the division’s equity-focused policy initiatives, including on state EITCs, poverty reduction, and immigration. She also spearheaded the division’s State Policy Equity Initiative in order to deepen the racial, gender, and economic equity efforts of the state team and the Partnership as a whole. In addition to policy-related efforts, Erica oversees teams attending to the effectiveness and sustainability of the Partnership and its member organizations through convenings, trainings, peer learning, and philanthropic stewardship. Prior to joining the Center in 2009, Erica worked as a Study Director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, where she researched a variety of issues of concern to women, including equal pay, job training and education, early care and education, Social Security, and civic engagement. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish Studies from Santa Clara University and an M.A. in International Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

New Mexico’s Strategy for Revenue
Stephanie Schardin Clarke, Cabinet Secretary, NM Taxation & Revenue Department
Stephanie received her appointment as Secretary of Taxation and Revenue from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in January 2019. With over 16 years’ experience in state and local government in New Mexico, Stephanie has served as Deputy Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, Director of the State Board of Finance, Santa Fe County Finance Director, and as an economist for both the Department of Finance and Administration and the Legislative Finance Committee.   She earned a Master’s in Economics from the University of New Mexico and a Bachelor’s in Economics from the George Washington University.  She grew up in Fargo, ND and has two young sons.


Policy Solutions for Investing in Children and Families in New Mexico
Bill Jordan, Government Relations Officer, New Mexico Voices for Children
Bill has been with NM Voices since 1998 and leads our legislative advocacy efforts in Santa Fe and Washington, D.C., working primarily with lawmakers on issues such as raising the minimum wage, creating a state-level earned income tax credit, expanding access to health care, passing the child helmet safety law, and the like. Bill is relied upon by many legislators for data and information relating to the legislation they are voting on or writing. He was appointed to Governor Richardson’s Equal Pay Task Force and his Budget Balancing Task Force. Previously, Bill was Executive Director of the HIV Coordinating Council of New Mexico.



Paige Knight, Research and Policy Analyst, New Mexico Voices for Children
Paige joined NM Voices in 2018 and focuses on tax and fiscal policy issues. She received her BA in Economics from Luther College in Iowa and is a recent graduate of UNM’s Master in Public Policy program. Originally from Minnesota, Paige moved to Albuquerque in early 2017. Prior to moving to the Southwest, she worked at a variety of nonprofits in Iowa City and Chicago, including a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer. In New Mexico, she worked with Accion and interned with the Legislative Finance Committee. Her experience with nonprofit and governmental organizations further developed her interest in public policy issues, particularly those surrounding sustainable economic development.



Cradle-to-Career Education in the time of COVID-19 and Recession

Education Landscape in New Mexico
Howie Morales, Lieutenant Governor, State of New Mexico
Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales was raised in Silver City where he lives today with his two young children. As a state senator, Howie served on the Legislative Finance Committee for 11 years championing investments in public education and children’s well-being. A classroom teacher of special education students in Grants County for a decade, he said “No more cuts to New Mexico’s classrooms” during the Gov. Martinez years. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham asked Howie to take the helm of the State Public Education Department in January of 2019 until a permanent Secretary could be named. During that period, she issued two executive orders eliminating future use of the PARCC standardized test in public schools. Howie put himself through Western New Mexico University. The first in his family to go to college, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in education from NMSU.

Investing in Children & Resourcing the Early Childhood Education & Care Department
Elizabeth Groginsky, Cabinet Secretary, NM Early Childhood Education & Care Department
Elizabeth has more than two decades of executive leadership experience administering public and private human service organizations at the national, state and local levels. She previously served as the assistant superintendent of early learning for the District of Columbia, a role she held for nearly five years where she administered a $160 million annual budget that funded programs to ensure equal access to quality services for the District’s most vulnerable children and their families. D.C. was first in the nation in 2009 to pursue universal pre-K and today has the highest U.S. participation rate, engaging 85 percent of all 4-year-olds and 75 percent of 3-year-olds. She previously directed early childhood education for United Way Worldwide, where she helped expand the number of communities collecting and using population-based early childhood data; and she was the first executive director of the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, a national coalition to improve state policies and practices in the development and use of early childhood data systems. Her experience with Head Start programs is extensive: She began as a family services coordinator, later administered a county program, and then directed the Head Start Collaboration Office for Colorado. In D.C., she oversaw one of only eight state Early Head Start Child Care Partnership grants. Elizabeth earned a Master’s in Social Sciences from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Bachelor’s from the University of Maryland.

Community Panel: Equity in Education in New Mexico
Edward Tabet-Cubero, State Director, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich
For more than 20 years, Edward has worked nationally and internationally to promote educational equity for diverse learners as a bilingual classroom teacher, award-winning school administrator, dual language education consultant, nonprofit administrator, university instructor, teacher trainer, and education policy expert. His work also includes a variety of publications and keynote addresses on topics ranging from instructional leadership to teacher evaluation, all with a racial equity lens. Active in legislative advocacy, Edward has co-authored multiple bills related to bilingual education and teacher preparation, and has served as an expert witness for the state Legislature numerous times. In 2014, Edward was named a WK Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Fellow, and in 2019, he was honored with the Matías L. Chacón Award by the NM Association for Bilingual Education for his bilingual education advocacy.

Regis Pecos, Co-Director of the Leadership Institute at Santa Fe Indian School
Regis is a member of Cochiti Pueblo, where he served multiple terms as Governor, Lt. Governor, and on the traditional tribal council. He was one of the first Pueblo members elected to the Bernalillo Public Schools Board of Education. He is a graduate of Princeton University, did his graduate work at U.C. Berkeley, and his Senior Executive Education at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he is chairman of the Board of Governors of the Honoring Nations Program. As a trustee emeritus of Princeton, he is the first Native American to ever be appointed to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees of any Ivy League school. Regis was the longest serving executive director of the state Office of Indian Affairs (now the Indian Affairs Department), a position he held for 16 years. He served as chief of staff to the late state Rep. Ben Lujan, the Speaker of the House for 12 years, as well as chief of staff to former state Rep. Rick Miera, when he was the House Majority Floor Leader. He serves on a number of boards nationally and locally.

Melissa Candelaria, Senior Education Attorney, NM Center on Law and Poverty
Melissa is a member of the legal team for the Yazzie plaintiffs in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico. The Center represents families and schools in this landmark lawsuit against the state for failing to provide public school students a sufficient education as guaranteed by the state constitution. She has many years of legal, policy, and advocacy experience on a variety of issues including education, health, child welfare, tribal courts, and governmental relations involving tribes and federal, state, and local governments, and the promotion and protection of tribal sovereignty. She is a citizen of the Pueblo of San Felipe. Melissa has a JD with a Certificate in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law, and a BA with a minor in Education from Dartmouth College.

Mary Parr-Sanchez, President, NEA-New Mexico
Mary is the 98th president of NEA-New Mexico, taking took office in July 2019. She taught middle school for 25 years in Las Cruces Public Schools, including American history, civics, and geography in a community that served children from low-income families, single-parent families and migrant-labor families. She was recognized as the Sallie Mae “Outstanding First Year Teacher” in her district in 1991-1992 and was awarded the state teacher of the year for citizenship education by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 2001. Mary led the movement for Community Schools in Las Cruces, and is now working to support the statewide expansion of Community Schools, serving on the NM Coalition for Community Schools. She is a committed advocate for students, families, and staff.

Patricia Jiménez-Latham, Project Manager, Transform Education New Mexico
Through Transform Education NM, Patricia partners with community organizations, youth, families, and educators to ensure a high quality, equitable education for all New Mexico students in Pre-K-20 school settings. She firmly believes that the greatest asset our children bring to the classroom is their language and cultural identity and, as educators, we need to ensure we value and preserve these gifts. Patricia has over three decades of experience in K-20 education settings.