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

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Marianna
 Anaya
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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. In fact, data collected over the years confirms a New Mexico pre-k system that is in need of repair. 

The need for action to improve the education system in our state has become a rally cry – not only as a platform for politicians, but also, as a topic of mutual interest to families. Pre-k seems to be the point of interest convergence, the bold gateway to ensuring that students read earlier, are better prepared for kindergarten and elementary school, are more likely to graduate, and perform better over the long-term. It’s a win-win for everyone, yet, despite the growing need for pre-k, the option is simply not available to all families in our state. 

It’s a win-win for everyone, yet, despite the growing need for pre-k, the option is simply not available to all families in our state.

In fact, over 14,000 New Mexico children who are eligible for pre-k lack access because of a shortage of funding for pre-k programming. The Albuquerque Journal reported an uptick of about 1,000 new pre-k applications for the 2019-2020 school year, with many parents choosing the full-day option. The reality of whether or not all children have access to this resource rests in the hands of the New Mexico Legislature. 

In the ProgressNow New Mexico pre-k series, we’ll explore the history of pre-k in New Mexico, the fight for high quality, universal pre-k during the 2019 legislative session and ways in which you can become involved in the high-quality, universal pre-k movement in our state. 

In the meantime, we’re looking for families to highlight in a short video for our series. What has been your experience with pre-k in New Mexico? Write to Marianna@progressnownm.org for your chance to be featured in our video and be sure to tune in to our pre-k series to learn more about upcoming avenues for advocacy.

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Alissa Barnes :: Executive Director
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Alissa Barnes is Executive Director at ProgessNow New Mexico where she leads a team that works on message development, issue and voter education, and amplification of progressive messages and values. She leads the organization in strategy development, fundraising, and organizational growth and sustainability.

Alissa’s background includes nearly 12 years at Roadrunner Food Bank where Alissa led the development and creation of multiple programs that are now national models, invested in community building and collaborations, and worked closely with elected officials, educating about hunger and why policies would either benefit or hurt clients in food lines. She has a BA from the University of New Mexico and various non-profit certifications.
  • If she followed her childhood dream, she would be a Broadway tap dancing star
  • Has seen Frozen 1 and 2 over 100 times
  • Loves heavy metal concerts
Marianna Anaya :: Deputy Director
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Marianna oversees strategic messaging and creative implementation tactics for issue-based and political campaigns. She leads the team’s digital and earned media programs, bringing a New Mexico values-based approach to her work. 

Marianna’s background includes race and ethnic studies in education as a focus at UT Austin and UCLA, political campaign work, staffing former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as leading organizing and communications work for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

  • She currently serves as the Board President of Emerge NM. 
  • Her hobbies include getting more women, queer folks and BIPOC elected to office.
  • She has three cuddle-worthy dogs at home
Lucas Herndon :: Energy and Policy Director
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Lucas’ focus is on all things energy and environment, election integrity projects and general messaging strategy. He is often the front facing voice for PNNM when it comes to issues surrounding methane, renewable energy, oil industry accountability, and public lands issues. 

Lucas has an extensive background in public lands and solar energy. He was instrumental in the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 and has participated in every local election since 2012 through phone banking, online organizing, and poll watching. Lucas is a lifelong resident of Las Cruces where he has served in various capacities of leadership including as President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, District Director for the Dona Ana County Democratic Party, and attending and completing the inaugural classes of the Las Cruces Neighborhood Leadership Academy and the Las Cruces Tree Stewards. 

  • Owned a tattoo shop called Omega Tattoo & Supply 
  • Once got a chin bump “what’s up” from James Harden on an airplane when Harden saw Lucas’ beard 
  • Has a minor in Medieval and Early Modern History
Josette Arvizu :: Communications Director
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Josette Arvizu is the Communications Director at ProgressNow New Mexico where she oversees the development and implementation of systems that further the external and internal communications of the organization.

Josette’s background in marketing includes copywriting, paid media, SEO and content strategy for businesses and nonprofits, including convention and visitor bureaus from Bermuda to Anaheim. She began her career teaching writing to college students while in New Mexico State University’s MFA in creative writing program. Her previous work promoting diversity and inclusion includes coordination of writing and traditional arts workshops for Native American youth at the Tucson Indian Center.
  • Is a cat mom to an obstinate orange tabby named Quasimodo and a restless grey cat named Squirrel
  • Hasn’t heard a pun she didn’t like
  • Minored in dance in college and is an avid follower of ballet on Instagram
Jackie Aguirre :: Communications Specialist
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Jackie’s focus is on graphics and social media marketing that promote progressive issues across our state. 

Jackie’s background includes work in the Reproductive Justice space focusing on Latinx, Chicanx and Mexican-American communities.

  • She is a co-owner of a community art gallery celebrating BIPOC artists
  • She is a long-time volunteer for Planned Parenthood and works with college students to provide condoms/dental dams, menstrual products & other resources
  • She is a part of a group of women who love craft beer and hosts monthly beer shares with beer from all over the country
Edgar Cruz :: Communications Specialist
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Edgar Cruz is a Communications Specialist at ProgressNow New Mexico where he focuses on video creation and research that promotes progressive issues across our state.

Edgar has a background producing multimedia initiatives. With over five years of radio production experience, he is a movement agent who believes in exploring all avenues of media to inform and engage community.

  • Is a host of Espejos de Aztlan on KUNM
  • Is a member of Generation Justice
  • First discovered his passion for organizing as a high school student after joining the Youth Alliance in 2009