Recover password

Time to tap the permanent fund for pre-K

Archbishop John Wester

On May 8, the Albuquerque Journal’s Editorial Board, in its haste to control the conversation of how to fund early childhood education, fails to read its own front page headline: “New Mexico 2015 Graduation Rate Worst in Nation.”

When I was appointed Archbishop of Santa Fe by Pope Francis, I was shocked by the depth of our children’s poverty. The Journal’s headlines, one after another, have quoted national statistics: we are 49th in children’s wellbeing, ranking No. 1 for children living in poverty and No. 2 for children living in hunger in the USA.

The Journal headlines have also given credence to the effectiveness of early childhood programs such as home visiting and yet, in the face of their own reporting, they contradict the evidence and science that learning begins at birth.

In the Journal’s reporting and editorials, they stress personal responsibility, yet this is best attained by home visiting. First-time parents embrace they are the primary caregivers and educators of their children.

The Journal is quick to determine whether a tax is regressive or not. It neglects to consider the consistency the Archdiocese has had in its work to repeal taxes on food and its years of advocacy work to keep New Mexico free of them. Needless to say, the Journal is a supporter of the food tax, the infamous “tortilla tax.”

After seven years of the New Mexico Senate’s failure to fully fund early childhood, it is ethical, moral and just for municipalities to search for remedies. It is unconscionable to leave our children in this plight.

The Journal deliberately chooses to confuse the public between the political process and the policy process. The Archdiocese chooses to be a 501(c)3 nonprofit, which means it chooses not to be in the political process of elevating candidates but does not relinquish its constitutional right and its call by God, as all citizens are, to be a voice in the public square for the common good.

We all have the obligation to propose a remedy to end the cycle of poverty in which New Mexico is entrenched. In this same trench, our children live in an epidemic of adverse childhood experiences, their future overshadowed by a cloud, denying them their full potential.

New Mexico does rank high in one important thing: its children are the owners of the second-largest Land Grant Permanent Fund in the nation. For years, we have brought forward the economic research that the projected growth of the fund is an average of 11 percent, and year after year that research has been confirmed.

Another Journal headline, from May 2, “The New Mexico Land Grant Fund is up 11 percent.” This is a growth of $800 million. The Journal uses the term “raid,” but how is using what the fund is intended for a “raid”?

The Journal and its business/associations/coalitions continue to say that they believe in the importance of early childhood education but cannot agree on the funding source. Now the Journal second-guesses its own reporting by saying there are no gains from pre-K education.

Every rock has been turned over, and the only source, without taxation, is utilizing the 83 percent of the Land Grant Permanent Fund called the “common school fund,” which is dedicated to education.

The Journal comments that funding for early childhood is the “pet cause” of the Archdiocese. All New Mexicans should be offended by the term “pet cause” used to describe our most important cause, the well-being of our children. Parents, grandparents and all people of good will do not consider the well-being of their children a “pet cause.”

The Journal makes a golden calf out of the Land Grant Permanent Fund, only now it is $800 million fatter, approaching $16 billion, and is holding an empty soda can.