New Mexico is failing too many of her children. There is overwhelming evidence that early childhood education and programs that mentor young parents pay enormous dividends in terms of success in school and keeping at-risk children out of the criminal justice system. Yet, despite the proven benefits, funding for these systems is inadequate to serve all those in need.
Quality pre-kindergarten (PreK) programs have been shown to improve student achievement. New Mexico’s Public Education Department administers an early childhood program for families with children aged 3 and 4 years old, and just over 8,000 children received PreK services in fiscal year (FY) 2015. While that is an excellent start, it represents only about 30% of those eligible, leaving thousands more children without the long-term benefits and advantages these programs provide.
Home visiting is a voluntary parental education and mentoring program shown to reduce child abuse and improve children’s overall health. For example, First Born is an evidence-based program supported by the Children, Youth and Families Department. Trained home visitors help new parents develop parenting skills tied to the child’s particular stage in development and can provide access to other important family services.
While FY 2018 estimates indicate 3,700 families will receive home visiting services, roughly 7,000 eligible families still go without these important resources. We can increase funding to these types of programs to allow communities to develop quality infrastructure and assure access to this programming. As we strive to connect more eligible families with these services, we must also continue to assess and improve program effectiveness through a standards-based accountability system.
Many are frustrated by the statistics that show New Mexico at the bottom of so many lists. When elected to the New Mexico House, I will champion proven and effective initiatives that will turn these unacceptable trends around and improve opportunities for all New Mexico’s children.