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Preschool report touts gains, warns of COVID-19 impacts

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

While there has been some promising progress surrounding state-funded early childhood education in New Mexico, experts worry the pandemic could halt gains.

A new report shows that the state was experiencing a boost in preschool enrollment and spending, when adjusted for inflation, before COVID-19.

“It’s encouraging to see New Mexico continuing to invest more funding per child in state preschool to support the implementation of their standards for quality,” said Steven Barnett, National Institute for Early Education Research’s founder and senior co-director, in a statement. “The state has also continued to expand access while also serving more children in full-day pre-K.”

The 2020 State of Preschool Yearbook by the National Institute for Early Education Research also showed that New Mexico met nine out of 10 benchmarks identified in the report such as class-size standards and professional development for staff.

“New Mexico state-funded PreK enrolled 12,067 3- and 4-year-old children in 2019-2020, an increase of 816 children from the prior year,” the report said.

But on a national level, the report flagged that state-funded preschool enrollment has been affected during the pandemic as programs had to close.

Barnett warned that New Mexico and other states should prepare to mitigate effects and continue to invest in programs.