If you’ve been following the efforts to build early childhood education in New Mexico over the past few years, a recently released report about a statewide needs assessment won’t hold a lot of surprises.
There were the usual issues of low wages and high turnover, poor coordination among early childhood programs, lack of dependable funding and the need for higher-quality programs and greater access across every region of the state.
The New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership, out of United Way of Santa Fe, is in charge of a planning process for the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, with the mandate to complete a needs assessment and help put together a strategic plan for the new agency. It’s conducted a monthslong trek through the state to gather feedback.
There were, however, a couple of interesting takeaways. NMID recently published a story on poor wages for early childhood workers and teachers, and a workforce survey produced for the partnership really put some meat on those bones.
The survey reached 1,290 of New Mexico’s more than 5,000 early childhood workers.
One striking data point from the workforce survey is that a large number of high-level workers in early childhood education make less than $30,000 a year. For instance, 65% of lead teachers and 55% of assistant directors make less than $30,000. Those percentages rise dramatically — to almost 90% — for teacher aids, caregivers and substitute teachers. Only 37% of center directors and 26% of teachers were happy with their salaries.
The partnership conducted a separate needs assessment process for the state’s tribal communities to see if there were any unique issues they had or wanted addressed. An interesting thing reported was a desire to connect education and health. Less surprising was a lack of decent space for early childhood programs, and one recommendation was for the state to do a “space audit” to identify places that could be repurposed for early childhood programs.
“We need basic infrastructure – a new roof, a paved parking lot, new tile floor, a new playground for our children,” one participant told the group.