Right now, many of New Mexico's kids are struggling. Less than 20 percent of eligible children have access to New Mexico's early childhood programs and 51 percent of New Mexico's children live in low-income households. Their parents and care-givers cannot afford to pay for high-quality child care and don't have access to a pre-kindergarten program.
Early childhood services provide children with the skills and care they need to succeed and thrive. But New Mexico spends less than 1 percent of the state budget on early care and education programs. The result? Children enter kindergarten behind and the learning gap continues to increase as they get older.
By investing in the early years, we can ensure that New Mexico children have the best opportunity to succeed in school and throughout life.
The New Mexico Legislature will be considering a proposal in January that would let the voters decide if more money should be invested in preparing our children for success in school.
Please urge your policymakers to give citizens the opportunity to vote in support of funding early childhood education.
It is urgent and vital that you pass legislation in the next regular session to give citizens the opportunity to vote on a ballot question to distribute Land Grant Permanent Funds to early childhood care and education programs. Universal access to high-quality early childhood programs and services will enable New Mexico children to thrive and better succeed in school.
It is well known that learning begins at birth. Sadly, for many babies born in New Mexico, the achievement gap begins shortly thereafter. Among the 50 states, New Mexico consistently ranks at the bottom of the list in terms of the overall health and educational performance of its children. Currently, less than 20 percent of young children have access to New Mexico's early childhood programs, including home visiting, high-quality child care, and New Mexico pre-kindergarten. These programs are shown to help children succeed in school.
Fortunately, we have the resources to turn these statistics around. New Mexico has the second largest Land Grant Permanent Fund in the country, with more than $10 billion. Allotting a small percent of the Fund’s earnings to early learning programs is one of the best ways to reform our K-12 education system. Long-term studies show that children who receive quality early childhood education services perform better on school coursework and standardized tests, graduate high school at higher rates, and are more likely to attend college.
We need your help to ensure that all children in New Mexico can participate in early childhood learning and care programs.
Before you adjourn next spring, please pass legislation allowing citizens to vote to allocate a small portion of the Land Grant Permanent Fund earnings to early childhood education for the children of New Mexico.
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