Local Viewpoints
3:46 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Sapien: Invest In New Mexico Youth

  “There are many projects that government can invest in, but very few have the real rate of return that investing in early childhood does.” – Dr. James Heckman, Nobel Prize Winner, Economics

For the first time, New Mexico ranks 50th in the Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT national and state-by-state study to track the well-being of children in the United States. In 2011, 29 percent of our state’s children experienced poverty.

These are startling and sobering facts. Now more than ever, we need a firm and sustained funding commitment to the children of our state.

I have long championed the expansion of and funding for high quality early childhood care and education programs (ECE). To that end, and through the support of my fellow legislators we have increased funding for ECE program to the tune of $65 million over the last two years with an additional $35 million proposed in this year’s budget.

To continue the robust funding strategy, a five year spending plan has been developed, which would be funded through increased annual funding from the state’s general fund. The spending plan would support a high quality and accountable system of early childhood care and education. The five year spending plan would amount to an additional $119 million annually for our ECE programs.

This request will include increased funding for (1) home visiting; (2) child care assistance; (3) New Mexico Pre-K; (4) additional education and training for early childhood care and education professionals; (5) a unique identifier and (6) data systems; (7) incentives for quality and (8) wage and training subsidies.

The return on investment of this request is significant:

  • High quality child care and education experiences can positively impact the negative effects of poverty.
  • Investments in high quality early childhood care and education pay off. Early experiences last a lifetime. Numerous studies have shown that early childhood care and programs contribute to higher rates of employment and higher earnings as well as a reduction in public assistance.
  • Quality home visiting programs have been shown to reduce child abuse and neglect by as much as 80 percent, improve cognitive and vocabulary scores, and contribute to higher grade point averages and achievement test scores.
  • Children who attend higher quality child care centers demonstrate better cognitive and social skills from preschool into the early elementary school years.
  • Pre-K programs have shown reductions in grade retention and special education placement by as much as 50 percent.

I hope you will join me in supporting this strategy. Please contact your legislators today. Together, we can do what is best for our kids, our communities and our state.