A Good Year for Early Childhood Policies in New Mexico: A Recap of the 2014 Legislative Session

A former member of the New Mexico State Senate described her first session as a little like “riding a motorcycle in a thunderstorm in the nude.”  This may sound a bit like an exaggeration.  But, it is not.  The New Mexico State Legislature meets for 30 or 60 days, depending on the year and the sessions are often challenging, confrontational and exhilarating.   

This year was no different.  But, we are proud to report that at the end of it all – funding to support early childhood initiatives was increased. 

The 30 day session of the New Mexico Legislature came to a grinding halt at high noon on Thursday, February 20, 2014. The primary focus of the 30 day session was to pass a budget.  In an unusual turn of events, The General Appropriations Act of 2014 (the Legislature’s version of the state budget) failed to pass the House on a tie vote.  Rather than wait around for the House, the Senate, in a highly irregular move, developed their own version of the budget which passed both Houses and was then signed by the Governor. 

The budget signed by the Governor included a significant increase in funding for early childhood initiatives by $28 million, a 14% increase over FY14 appropriations.  The signed budget included additional funding for home visiting, New Mexico PreK, infant child care assistance rates, Kindergarten to Third Grade Plus in public schools and the Early Literacy Reading Initiative in public schools.   The budget also includes funds for early childhood teacher compensation and retention.

The increases include:

  • Home Visiting - $4.5 million to support home visiting programs.
  • New Mexico PreK – $6.6 million to support New Mexico PreK.  Funding was also provided to support a full-day New Mexico PreK pilot program.  (Currently, New Mexico PreK is half day).  New Mexico PreK  is jointly administered by the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and the Public Education Department (PED).  Since the development of New Mexico PreK, funds were distributed equally among both departments.  For the first time, additional funding was appropriated to the PED.   
  • Training, Technical Assistance and Professional Development:   $600,000 for training, technical assistance and professional development for child care assistance programs including (1) $300,000 for training, technical assistance and professional development for child care assistance programs and (2) $300,000 for statewide child care teacher education, retention, and compensation. 
  • Planning Grants:  $450,000 for high-quality early childhood development center planning grants
  • Child Care Assistance:  $1.3 million to increase child care subsidy rates for caring for and educating infants, and an additional $1 million boost in child care subsidy to help make sure there are enough funds to sustain a 4% increase in rates that went into effect last fall, while continuing to serve all families needing care who have incomes up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level.  
  • Support for Family Child Care Homes: $400,000 for quality improvements for family child care homes.

An Update on the Home Visiting Accountability Act - In the midst of debate on the state budget, the first “New Mexico Home Visiting Annual Outcomes Report:  FY13” report was presented to members of the Legislature.  This first Annual Home Visiting Outcomes Report presents aggregate data about the outcomes for all Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) administered home visiting programs funded by the State of New Mexico in Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13). The report was prepared according to the requirements of NMSA 1978, Sections 32A-23B-1 (2013), referred to as the “Home Visiting Accountability Act,” (the New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership, in partnership with Pew, championed this act during the 2013 legislative session).  The development of an annual report was a requirement of the Act and was designed to inform policymakers and practitioners about the impact of the state’s Home Visiting System on families and children in New Mexico. 

Applause, Applause, Applause
The successes in New Mexico are the result of coordinated advocacy led by the New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership, New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children, and New Mexico Voices for Children.  Contributing partners are the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Thornburg Foundation, Alliance for Early Success and the Committee for Economic Development.  Aligned partners included the Pew Center on the State Home Visiting Campaign.  Our sincere gratitude to all!

-Claire Dudley, Executive Vice President for Policy and Stakeholder Engagement
New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership
(May 6, 2014)