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New Mexico Truth aims to help children

It is a sad day in New Mexico when a nonprofit organization has to take out paid advertisements to bring attention to the poverty that holds our children back and the hunger that follows them to bed.

The Albuquerque Journal editorial board is correct in their Jan. 21 editorial – we do have many problems in this state. This campaign, we hope, will raise the consciousness of all New Mexicans about those problems.

New Mexico Truth is about the barriers to success our children face. It is an awareness-raising and educational campaign in this year of mercy called for by Pope Francis. We should all be taking inventory of ourselves and our community as an act of compassion.

New Mexico Truth is about our children.

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The truth is that we are number one in childhood poverty and 49th in child well-being. We also have a solution. We believe New Mexico must invest in early childhood programs to end our cycle of poverty.

But let us be clear, we are here to propose – not impose. Over the past five years no one else has come forward with a substantial way of financing early childhood programs. In good will, we trust the legislators when they say that they believe early childhood education is an important part of creating systemic change. But their “take it slow” strategy is leaving too many children behind.

The New Mexico Truth campaign is greater than the constitutional amendment. But since the editorial focused on that, we must point out that the constitutional amendment makes funds available for legislators to appropriate to those state-funded programs that meet their standards for accountability and improve educational and other child outcomes.

And there is a plan; fund the unmet need and eliminate the waiting lists for home visiting, child care and pre-K, and improve child care quality.

Numerous studies have shown that the return per year to society is from $7-$10 for every dollar invested in these programs. Economists call it the best economic development plan there is.

We believe in New Mexico. This is why we are focusing on the children. Their success will translate into success for the state. When our children are doing better the economy will be stronger and tourism industry will flourish.

The editorial board is incorrect in comparing this proposal to earlier increased distributions from the fund because, as a state, we have never invested the fund into high quality early childhood programs.

CHI St. Joseph’s Children takes no state money, instead spending $6 million of our own money annually providing free home visiting services throughout the state. CHI St. Joseph’s Children runs one of the largest home visiting programs in the nation, but we can’t do it alone.

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Currently just 2 percent of New Mexico’s families are receiving home visiting services even though we know this is an effective way to reduce child abuse and improve educational outcomes. We ask the Journal editorial board and the state Legislature: If you do not like our proposal, then bring one forward.

Recently, in the process of the canonization of our founder, Sister Blandina Segale, it was revealed that she lobbied the territorial legislature for seven years to fund public schools.

Over 100 years later we find ourselves once again lobbying the Legislature to fund its own departments and programs.

The editorial board claims that this campaign, New Mexico Truth, is about taking down a political foe. But this is not about politics. Politics is about the elevation of a political candidate.

This is about policy. Policy that will elevate our children and give them a fighting chance for a better future. If you want to make effective change, you have to start with the truth.

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