NM must keep early childhood momentum going - Albuquerque Journal

NM must keep early childhood momentum going

On June 22, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its latest Kids Count rankings – and for the third year in a row, New Mexico ranked last in the nation in child well-being.

Here’s what this report means and what my administration is doing about it:

First, it’s important to understand that these rankings are based on 2018 data, the latest available. They also reflect years of budget cuts for essential early education and human services programs.

Sometimes, it is true, you get what you pay for. For too long, New Mexico chose not to invest in high-quality early childhood programs despite the fact that for every dollar invested, these programs save our state six dollars in education, health care and other costs.

More to the point, these programs – including home visiting services and early interventions, family nutrition services, high-quality child care, Early Head Start and Head Start, early pre-K, and pre-K – provide essential developmental support, education and care to our youngest children and their families.

In other words, the Kids Count rankings provide a crystal-clear explanation for the choices my team and I have made since taking office in 2019.

When I was sworn in, our state’s early childhood programs were housed in several different agencies. Naturally, this created coordination and communication challenges – even among early education professionals who were working hard to meet families’ needs.

We knew that by placing most of the state’s early childhood programs under one roof, we could take a genuine systems approach – creating a clearer continuum of services and helping the state’s programs collaborate more effectively. Just as importantly, we could help families understand, access and transition between services more easily.

In our first legislative session, then, we partnered with Sen. Michael Padilla, Rep. Linda Trujillo, and a host of other allies and advocates to establish the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, one of only a small handful of state Cabinet-level agencies dedicated to child well-being in the country. Getting this legislation over the line was my top priority, because nothing less than our kids’ future was at stake.

But we didn’t stop there. Last year, we also raised child care assistance eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, $52,400 per year for a family of four. We did so because we knew that tens of thousands of New Mexican parents need safe, nurturing places for their children to go while they are at work or school. and we want to make it as seamless as possible for those families to get the support they need.

During this year’s winter legislative session, we went a step further, creating the Early Childhood Trust Fund to provide a permanent funding source for early childhood programs far into the future.

While I am very proud of our accomplishments over the last 18 months, I am also conscious of the fact that none of this happened overnight. We built on the work of legislators, advocates and early childhood professionals who have spent decades working for New Mexico’s children – many of whom continue to do so far from the spotlight.

I am also aware that deep, transformative change will not happen with the snap of our fingers. The official launch of the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department marks a crucial step toward a more cohesive, equitable, and effective early childhood system, but there is much work ahead.

And while numbers can guide us, ultimately this work is far more real and tangible than any ranking. It’s about ensuring that none of our kids grow up in poverty, that all of our children have access to the health and educational opportunities they deserve, and that every family, regardless of background, feels supported, respected and included. That’s the New Mexico I believe in, and that’s the New Mexico I’ll continue working for.

If we are to make progress, though, we’ll need every New Mexican to pitch in. ECECD’s success will depend on parents and families keeping us informed about their needs. It will depend on providers and educators offering honest feedback to the department’s new leadership. And it will depend on state agencies continuing to work together in service of a shared mission: to create a brighter and healthier future for our youngest New Mexicans.

Let’s get to work.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » NM must keep early childhood momentum going

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Investment advice: Good practice to ask difficult questions of ...
ABQnews Seeker
What questions could he have asked ... What questions could he have asked the financial consultant before agreeing to buy the annuities?
ABQ Journal Business Column: Menaul revival plans, May job ...
ABQnews Seeker
The city of Albuquerque's leadership has ... The city of Albuquerque's leadership has been talking about a renewal plan for troubled Menaul Boulevard, a well-traveled thoroughfare that wends its way through ...
New Mexico contingent strong for JOs in Texas
Olayo-Muñoz, Carrasco both seeeded No. 1 ... Olayo-Muñoz, Carrasco both seeeded No. 1 in their divisions
Pet care: Scratching the surface of an itchy situation
ABQnews Seeker
We learn a lot about pets ... We learn a lot about pets by watching them move. ... I observe by trying to be inconspicuous, like a fly on the wall ...
New Mexico Finance Authority launches program to rehabilitate homes
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico Finance Authority launches ... New Mexico Finance Authority launches program to rehabilitate homes.
BLM needs to lay out what it wants new ...
From the newspaper
OPINION: Public deserves to know how ... OPINION: Public deserves to know how proposal will deliver better conservation.
New Mexico has much to celebrate this Pride Month
From the newspaper
OPINION: We must fight back against ... OPINION: We must fight back against the misinformation that threatens the health and safety of our LGBTQ+ community.
Endangered species need a new approach to conservation
From the newspaper
OPINION: There's a way to save ... OPINION: There's a way to save wildlife and advance energy industry.
Housing Forward is key to the promise of Albuquerque
From the newspaper
OPINION: City zoning changes will mean ... OPINION: City zoning changes will mean more needed affordable housing.