New Mexico lawmakers cautious on early childhood funding, even though cash rich

Lawmakers want to pump hundreds of millions more into public education this year, but advocates and some lawmakers say too little is going to early childhood programs that serve children under the age of five, and continue to argue the state needs to tap New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund. Over the past decade, how much to increase the state’s investment in such early childhood programs has aroused deep passions among advocates and lawmakers. Nothing has changed in 2019. According to a legislative analysis, the Legislature is proposing to spend $125 million more for early childhood programs for the year that starts July 1, but most of that is made up of a $90 million increase to K5 Plus, a program for children aged 5 and over. The Legislative Finance Committee describes New Mexico’s early childhood care and education as running from before a baby is born to when he or she reaches 8 years of age.

Early childhood department has governor’s backing

A child plays with beads in a New Mexico PreK classroom. A proposal for an Early Childhood Education and Care Department would bring together all children’s program for children ages 0 to 5 into the department, including New Mexico PreK administered both the Public Education Department and the Children Youth and Families Department. (Xchelzin Pena/New Mexico In Depth)

It was a powerhouse show of support last week for a plan to create an Early Childhood Education and Care Department. “Any other Cabinet secretaries here?,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, asked during public comment Feb. 13 on Senate Bill 22, which would create a department focused on providing education and services for children from birth to age 5.

Website quizzes governor, Congress and Land Office candidates on child wellbeing

This story has been updated. It’s a pivotal year for New Mexico, with a high-interest midterm election ahead in November. New Mexico is likely to see big changes in state government after eight years of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, and the national debate has been supercharged with both support and opposition to the Trump administration. With the stakes this high, the New Mexico Pediatric Society and New Mexico Voices for Children last week launched the voter-education website You Decide NM to share responses from candidates for governor, Congress and the State Land Office on a wide range of issues such as education, access to health insurance, energy policy and the environment that they believe will affect child wellbeing in the state. The groups also plan to run an internet advertising campaign to drive New Mexicans to the site.

Las Cruces group to use data on ACEs to fight childhood trauma

Las Cruces City Councilor Kasandra Gandara has one big request for her partners in a new effort to tackle childhood trauma in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County: Ask every person they serve or interact with how many Adverse Childhood Experiences they’ve had. Gandara and a group of behavioral health providers, educators, community activists and health professionals hope to use that data to create a systemic approach to reducing childhood trauma, with the aim of combating child abuse in the community and improving children’s health, education and lives. Gandara was inspired for the project by the book “Anna, Age Eight: The Data-Driven Prevention of Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment,” which was based on the work of Katherine Ortega Courtney and Dominic Cappello at the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department’s Protective Service Division. It chronicles the life and death of a child at her mother’s hands, while making the case that the smart use of data and community involvement can prevent childhood trauma. Gandara, who ended a 28 year social-work career as a CYFD county office manager, wants to use the solutions outlined in the book as a framework for Las Cruces to move awareness of ACEs beyond child advocates and emergency responders and into the general public so that they can help their community and families heal.

Q&A: Apodaca says investing in NM will improve education, kids’ lives

 

New Mexico In Depth is speaking with the candidates for New Mexico governor on the issues of early childhood, child wellbeing and education in New Mexico. Jeff Apodaca of Albuquerque is a former media executive and is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.  This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Sylvia Ulloa: What would early childhood education in New Mexico look like in an Apodaca administration? And what is your plan for offering early childhood care and education in rural New Mexico, where they often lack infrastructure and access to skilled early childhood educators?

Talking early education with southern NM lawmakers

At its most idealistic, New Mexico’s citizen legislature system draws people with expertise and passion for their fields who serve so that they can make a difference for the state and for their constituents. That’s why I’m excited to talk with state Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, about early childhood education in New Mexico. It’s the kick-off of New Mexico in Depth’s Coffee Chats series in 2018 that will explore important issues with informal talks at venues across the state. The event will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Beck’s Coffee House in Las Cruces. And we’ll be broadcasting the talk live on our Facebook page.