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Many support fund’s use for pre-K for poor kids

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A slight majority of New Mexico voters said they would support the option of using money from Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for low-income families to choose a pre-kindergarten program for their child, including the option of faith-based preschools.

a00_jd_18sept_Permanent_fund_scholarshipsThe question has not arisen, at least prominently, in the Legislature, where permanent fund spending is expected to be debated again next year. But 51 percent of voters surveyed in the Journal Poll said they would support using the permanent fund to pay for a new type of scholarship for low-income families to be able to choose a pre-kindergarten program, even if it is private school-based.

Thirty-seven percent said they opposed the idea. Twelve percent said they did not know.

Despite the support, the option of funding faith-based groups with Land Grant Permanent Fund money might not be possible under laws that govern the use of the fund adopted by Congress before New Mexico was granted statehood in 1912.

Proposals for use of Land Grant Permanent Fund money generally have prohibited the money from being paid to faith-based organizations. Nondenominational groups, however, are eligible to contract with state agencies to provide educational services.

Independent voters were slightly more likely than Democrats and Republicans to support the faith-based program funding. Fifty-seven percent of independents said they backed the idea, compared with 54 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans.

The poll asked: “Do you support or oppose spending money from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for low-income families to send their children to any pre-kindergarten program of their choice, including faith-based programs?”

The Journal Poll was conducted Sept. 9 through 11 by Research & Polling, Inc. The sample is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 500 voters who cast ballots in the 2010 and 2012 elections and said they were likely to vote again this year.

The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.