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.

It’s Time to Deliver for New Mexico’s Working Families in the 2019 Legislative Session

Elections have consequences — or at least they should. The resounding victory of Democrats in the 2018 election with an expanded majority in the state House, and Democrats holding every statewide office should result in passage of a real working families’ agenda. It is time for state leaders to deliver a real working families’ agenda in the 2019 legislative session that should include:

Raising the minimum wage — The top priority for policymakers this session must be to raise the minimum wage from the current poverty wage of $7.25 per hour to a a living wage of $15 per hour. Raising New Mexico’s minimum wage gradually over the next few years to $15 would lift pay for 370,000 workers, strengthening families, communities, and our state’s economy. Unfortunately, an increase to $15 per hour — even gradually — seems politically difficult even with the Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature and a Democratic governor.

Conditions for New Mexico’s children are ripe for change

The challenge is clearer than ever: A judge has ruled that New Mexico – once again ranked last for child well-being – fails to provide its children with a sufficient education, and must do better. Fortunately, after years of austerity, lawmakers expect to have more than a billion new dollars to allocate this year, along with a new governor who brings a fresh mandate and agenda. A policy window is opening, and substantial change is possible. During this special moment, lawmakers should prioritize early childhood. The science is clear – the first years of life set the brain’s foundation for future success in profound ways, and reliable access to care and education supports family economic and educational attainment.

More funding would help, but other issues also impede early ed in rural New Mexico

With the 2018 legislative session fully underway, lawmakers are once again debating funding levels for early education. A tug a war continues to play out between those who say New Mexico ought to tap its Land Grant Permanent Fund, one of the largest such funds in the nation, to dramatically expand the reach of early ed programs and those who advocate a slower, incremental approach to increasing funding levels. As the debate rages on, current services aren’t evenly distributed around the state. New state dollars often go to places where they’re already going, helping to expand the number of children served in places where facilities to educate young children already exist. It leaves a lot of rural New Mexico’s children out in the cold when it comes to New Mexico PreK.

Will lawmakers make 2018 the Year of the Child?

New Mexico’s children have arguably taken the brunt as the state has struggled through tough budgets the past couple of years, with cuts to public schools, state colleges and programs such as home visiting and expanded school years.

But with oil and gas revenues re-bounding, could 2018 be the year of the child at the Roundhouse?

Early Ed proposal fails in Senate committee

With just three days left in the session, the Senate Rules committee effectively killed an effort to tap New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund to provide additional resources for early childhood education. A motion to table the measure was made by Democratic Senator Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces. She was joined by Republicans on the committee and one other Democrat, Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants. The resolution was first brought up for debate in the committee on Monday, when Papen and Sanchez weren’t present. As the discussion got underway that day, Republican committee members got up and left one by one, leaving the committee without the quorum necessary for a vote.