Editorial: Strengthening the pre-K workforce is the right move - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Strengthening the pre-K workforce is the right move

Million-dollar grants to New Mexico colleges and universities to improve diversity in early childhood education are commendable. New Mexico is among the most culturally diverse states in the nation, and children from all of our communities deserve and need strong role models starting at a young age.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department recently announced $7 million in endowment grants to seven New Mexico colleges and universities. The grants are aimed at attracting Indigenous and bilingual students to the early education field to strengthen the diversity of the workforce, similar to the $1,500 incentives the department is offering bilingual student candidates.

Much of the $7 million will be used to hire faculty members to help attract more diverse students. Officials at San Juan College in Farmington say they’ll use their $607,000 grant to recruit 125 Indigenous and bilingual students over five years.

It’s an ambitious and laudable goal.

Also on tap are plans to increase pay for early childhood jobs that currently pay about $12 an hour — or a meager $25,000 annually.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a plan last month to use $77 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to boost the entry-level pay of early childhood workers by $3 an hour. Once that funding runs out, money to keep the raises in place could come from other federal dollars, a recently created state early childhood trust fund or increased distributions from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Either way, it’s imperative to keep the pay raises in place for an estimated 13,000 to 16,000 early childhood workers employed at 951 licensed child care centers around the state. As early childhood education worker Ivydel Natachu points out in today’s letters to the editor, many of the providers struggle to recruit and retain workers.

Higher pay for early childhood workers and grants to colleges aimed at student diversity are important steps in ensuring our youngest New Mexicans have role models they can relate to.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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