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

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. 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 [email protected] 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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