Universal Pre-K: New Mexico’s Bold Next Step

Last week, we asked our readers their opinion about every three and four year old having access to high-quality, universal pre-k. Responses indicated that high quality, universal pre-k is not only a priority for families with young children, but it is also of importance to our community as a whole, providing a strong, educational foundation for future generations as well as an opportunity for New Mexico to improve pay for pre-k teachers, many of whom utilize food stamps and Medicaid to help make ends meet. 

Our readers wrote to us with their pre-k stories- both the good and the bad, a reflection of the current state of our pre-k system. Some readers talked about the ways in which the pre-k system helped ready their own children for school, while educators chimed in about the difference they were able to see when a child has attended pre-k. Others, frustrated with the system, talked about the never-ending wait-lists, the lottery system that only serves a small portion of the population of three and four year olds, and the shameful pay that keeps some pre-k educators living in poverty. However troublesome, these stories are not new.

Why does Kelly Fajardo keep voting against kids??

Republicans in New Mexico’s House of Representatives claim to put kids first but their actions show differently. Take Rep. Kelly Fajardo for example. Already during this legislative session she’s joined her fellow Republicans on multiple party-line votes against New Mexico’s schoolchildren. In a committee vote this week Fajardo voted against investing in early childhood education for New Mexico’s kids. With that vote, she stood against 66% of New Mexicans who support expanding early childhood services with our state’s permanent fund.

Udall & Heinrich to legislators: Pass the damn amendment

For as many years as anyone can remember, legislators come to the session promising to do something dynamic enough to make Mississippi jealous. That’s because each year, reports say that our children are last in child wellbeing, poverty or some combination of both. This year, New Mexico’s Senators are weighing in, urging their legislators back home to stop talking and start doing to fix the problem. In a letter released just minutes before the governor’s State of the State address, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich published a letter to legislative leaders outlining their efforts on the federal level to help our children and asking state legislators to send a Constitutional Amendment to voters to open just 1% of the state’s $17 billion ($17,000,000,000) Land Grant Permanent Fund to provide early childhood education programs to every child, statewide. “New Mexico is at a critical juncture,” the Udall/Heinrich letter begins.

State: PED “erroneously reported” success with Gov’s keystone child reading initiative

The state’s bi-partisan budget analysts report that the State’s Public Education Department is fudging the numbers on the governor’s keystone early education program ahead of a request for more money in the upcoming year’s budget. When the Reads to Lead program was first launched in 2011, PED touted the $8.5 million expenditure as their keystone early education program and featured it prominently in its July 2012 PED newsletter, alongside pictures of Gov. Martinez reading to children at schools across New Mexico. She made it a central piece of her 2012 State of the State address, having appeared at 38 schools to read with students, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Last year, the department’s own report on the program (p.20) says, “since the implementation of Reads to Lead in 2012, approximately 6,000 educator, administrator, and reading coach participants have received professional development to assist struggling readers.” Those numbers have led PED to request larger and larger appropriations for the program each year.

The “Truth” hurts for Gov. Martinez

We’ve all seen the picturesque ads on billboards, TV, and in magazine pages. “New Mexico True” they say, with stunning sunsets and images of folks having the time of their lives at cultural events or recreating outside. But a group that works with New Mexico’s children has brought attention to the fact that New Mexico ranks 49th in the nation for child wellbeing, something hardly worth celebrating but equally “true” about the state (also, it’s something Governor Martinez has never even acknowledged). St. Joseph’s Children, a non-profit entity based in Albuquerque and affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives, has launched an ad campaign that parodies the “New Mexico True” campaign with the tagline “New Mexico Truth.” The campaign has already created quite a stir with the ads.