Preschool teacher Brittany Polanco does an evaluation of a student at Alpha School in Las Cruces for
the New Mexico Pre-K program. Most government safety net programs like welfare, Medicaid and food stamps have a “cliff effect.” It’s when someone gets a raise at work that makes them ineligible for financial help from the government, and they lose benefits that are more valuable than that bump in salary. Most benefit cliffs are fairly small, but the one for child care assistance in New Mexico looks like Wile E. Coyote just chased the Roadrunner off a mesa. Advocates for working families are hoping to change that financial cliff in child care assistance into a glide path for parents who are working toward financial security. New Mexico Voices for Children said its data shows that nine out of 10 people who get help with childcare costs from the Children Youth and Families Department are single parents with two kids.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is proposing $60 million more this year for early childhood education — part of a five-year plan to make access to preschool in New Mexico available to all 3- and 4-year-olds. Legislation has been introduced that expands the prekindergarten program in public schools and adds preschool classrooms to the school building fund. With a $1.1 billion surplus to ease financial pressures, both the governor and Legislature are proposing a huge boost in dollars meant for public schools. Given all that, does it still make sense to pursue the long-fought goal to tap the $17.5 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to help pay for early childhood education in New Mexico? The governor, for one, says yes.
The 2017 Legislature kicked off at the Roundhouse Tuesday, and the first order of business was Gov. Susana Martinez’s state of the state address to the legislature. That speech featured many proposals the Republican governor has advocated for years – reinstating the death penalty, avoiding tax increases, holding back third graders who can’t read and increased penalties for DUIs. But she also advocated bipartisanship, probably a necessary step when Democrats control the Legislature. Opening day is largely one of pomp and circumstance, especially for new lawmakers and their families. For New Mexico In Depth and KSFR Radio, we tracked down five new lawmakers in the boisterous capitol and asked about their day, the state of the state address and their goals for the 60-day session.