New Mexicans are experiencing hardship – natural disasters, inflation, economic uncertainty, you name it, we’re feeling it. Good news is relief checks are being cut and heading to your bank accounts. I understand, however, that this assistance will only go so far to ease the pain people are facing. Families deserve support that goes much deeper than $500 – $1,000 one-time checks. To overcome poverty, adverse lived experiences, generational trauma and subsequent wealth deprivation, our people deserve long-term, life-transforming social investment. We have the funding necessary to build and sustain this transformational change thanks to our $25 billion Permanent School Fund.
In November, voters will be faced with the most important ballot question in our state’s history. That question is whether to take roughly $250 million, or 1.25%, off the top annually from the fund’s investment capital to reinvest in our most important social capital: our children and the families who want to see them set up for long-term educational and life success. If approved, approximately $150 million will go toward continuing work to build a world-class system of universal early childhood education and care, and $100 million toward targeted educational programming to improve outcomes for K-12 students.
The fund, its moneys derived from our state lands and its investment returns, allow us to keep our public schools operating every year. Each year 5% of the average of the past five-year fund balance goes toward public school budgets and to other entities like public colleges. Even while we have been reinvesting 5% every year, the fund has grown by $10 billion in just the last five years.
We know how volatile putting money into the stock market can be. These past few months the fund has actually lost value, and this is a direct result of the same instability and uncertainty families are facing. Per the State Investment Council’s investment holdings report, the fund lost approximately $900 million in value during the month of April alone. But even in the face of instability, a recent Legislative Finance Committee report outlined that “despite a downturn in the quarter, returns remain above target in the medium- and long-run, bolstered by the previous and sustained strength throughout the last several quarters.” This news is cause for concern but actually reminds us the return on investing in our most vulnerable children is guaranteed to never have a downturn. We cannot throw away the most important investment opportunity that has ever been before us.
The fund has amassed a wealth that we can only imagine, and it is time to put it to use and write a new chapter for our state. Unlike when this idea was first proposed, the state now has an Early Childhood Education & Care Department, the first of its kind in the nation.
When we voted to send this initiative to voters, legislators were asking you to take a look around:
• At friends and neighbors who are paying half of their wages for day care while facing increases in housing costs.
• At teachers who provide daily care for our children but don’t make enough to support their own families.
• At freshman and sophomores in our schools who need extra support in order to keep up with classmates who had more opportunities.
Think about them, and then think about the fund, which has proven that it can and will continue to grow. The choice for a better future for New Mexicans is on the ballot in November. I hope you’ll join me in enthusiastically voting yes for kids, and voting yes for a better future.