Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., recently challenged state lawmakers to address the needs of New Mexico’s children and he proposed using the Land Grant Permanent Fund to benefit the state’s youngest citizens’ education needs.
Udall has endorsed the constitutional amendment proposal to invest 1.5 percent of the more than $14 billion in the Land Grant Permanent Fund to expand early childhood education in New Mexico. He urged New Mexico legislators to pass the Joint Resolution, which would put the proposal on the statewide ballot allowing voters to decide on this investment in children.
In his address to the joint session in Santa Fe, Udall called for federal, state and local officials to work together in partnership to improve the well-being of New Mexico’s children by fully funding the most effective early care and learning programs via the Land Grant Permanent Fund.
This constitutional amendment proposal was identified by many, including and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, as the most sustainable source for permanent funding for quality early education for all of New Mexico’s children. A study commissioned by the Invest in Kids NOW! coalition found that modifying the Land Grant Permanent Fund distribution to include early education will not increase taxes and will not take money from kindergarten through 12th grade. In fact, the fund will continue to grow.
There is resounding support for legislation that will allow the voters to decide on using a portion of the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for expanding early childhood care and learning. Nearly two-thirds of New Mexico voters support using a portion of the permanent fund for expanding early childhood programs, according to a poll released in late 2014 by the Albuquerque Journal.
“New Mexicans have spoken in support of this critical issue because they understand the great value of investing in our children in the early years,” said Allen Sánchez, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives St. Joseph’s Children Hospital and a member of the Invest in Kids NOW! Coalition. “Research shows 80 percent of a child’s brain develops before they enter kindergarten. Every child deserves the resources and opportunity to succeed and it is past time to let the voters decide this issue.”
“When children have a strong start in the very early years—from zero to five—they are much more likely to do well throughout school and life,” said Veronica García, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children and member of Invest In Kids NOW! “We need to increase our investments in those years. And since a child’s well-being rests on his or her family’s well-being, we also need to ensure that all parents and guardians have the tools they need to be successful. That’s the way to make lasting progress, break the cycle of poverty, have an educated workforce, a strong economy and improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans.”
“Legislators promised $30 million in new funds for early education programs this year,” said Reina Acosta, a parent with the OLÉ Working Parents Association. “But that money disappeared. This is hurting our families and shutting down our early education providers. That is precisely why our state needs a permanent, dedicated funding stream for early education.”
“The Governor continues to push for retaining our children at third grade, but instead she should be focused on preparing our children for success in kindergarten and beyond,” said Stephanie Ly, president of American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.
“Funding for early education is the best investment we can make in our state,” said Adrian Pedroza, executive director of the Partnership for Community Action and President Obama-appointee to the national Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. “This investment of 1.5 percent of the Permanent Fund in our young children and our families is not only the right thing to do it is the smart thing to do. The return on investment is unmatched.”
Using a portion of the Land Grant Permanent Fund would create more opportunities for New Mexico families to access high-quality early childhood education resources across the state, which encourage healthy development, better learning, earning, and physical and mental health. Several national economists have calculated that the return on investment in these services between 10 and 16 percent due to reductions in costs for everything from remedial education to social services later in life.