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Poll: NM Voters Support Boost to Early-Education Funding

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With the pandemic exacerbating educational inequities, New Mexico Democrats say they want to finish a decades-long fight to withdraw more money from the state's largest and oldest endowment to fund early education. (ePhotographyAustralia/Pixabay)
With the pandemic exacerbating educational inequities, New Mexico Democrats say they want to finish a decades-long fight to withdraw more money from the state's largest and oldest endowment to fund early education. (ePhotographyAustralia/Pixabay)
January 12, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A new poll shows a majority of New Mexico voters support a constitutional amendment to permanently fund early childhood education, and want lawmakers to put it on the ballot in 2022.

During the upcoming session, two Democratic legislators plan to introduce a measure that would set the stage for voters to loosen restrictions on the Land Grant Permanent Fund - one of the largest in the country. A recent poll of 500 voters found about 75% approve the proposal.

At a press conference Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said every family with children in the formative years is fragile, and needs early intervention and comprehensive support.

"We know that the divides and the gaps are enormous. We know that families are struggling in ways that are, frankly, so harsh it's hard to describe them and put them into adequate words and emotions," Grisham said.

The child-advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children has long championed a draw from the roughly $20 billion Permanent Fund to subsidize early childhood programs, but efforts to pass such a measure have died in the Legislature several times over the past decade. The state has historically ranked last or near the bottom of states in educational performance.

Democrats want to take 1% more from the Land Grant Permanent Fund each year, which currently only funds K-12 programs, and expand the beneficiaries to include pre-kindergarten.

State Reps. Javier Martínez and Antonio "Moe" Maestas will introduce the bill to put things in motion when the Legislature convenes on January 19. Maestas said it's time to secure reliable and sustainable funding to build a world-class early-childhood system.

"The Land Grant Permanent Fund belongs to New Mexicans, and there's nothing wrong with New Mexicans, their representatives and their voters deciding how best to utilize that fund and to spend that money," Maestas said.

Data show early-childhood education programs better prepare children for kindergarten and cut back on remediation and dropout rates later in life.

Disclosure: New Mexico Voices for Children/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM