Pew Report: New Mexico Pre-Kindergarten Program Loses Momentum Amid Budget Crisis

Dec 08, 2010, 09:08 ET from The Pew Center on the States

Newly elected policy makers will need to restore lost funding to ensure New Mexico kids are ready to learn

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New Mexico's pre-kindergarten program is experiencing its first significant funding decrease since the program began in FY06, according to an analysis released today by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

Pre-k funding was reduced by more than 18 percent in FY11, the second largest percentage cut in the nation. New Mexico is one of just 10 states cutting its pre-k investment, making it an outlier.

The majority of states protected pre-kindergarten investments this fiscal year. Total pre-k investments for all states came in at $5.4 billion, increasing slightly, by just over 1 percent.

New Mexico has relied heavily on federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars to build and expand its pre-k program, and it must identify its own stable and reliable source of funding to ensure the future sustainability of the program.

"A tough economy is even more reason New Mexico should invest in pre-k," said Bobbie Gutierrez, Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools. "New Mexico cut funding while the majority of state legislatures across the country have protected – and in many cases increased – funding for their pre-k programs. New Mexico needs to get back on track in order for the state's children to enter kindergarten prepared to succeed."

New Mexico's pre-k program launched in FY06 with an investment of $5 million. Over the next three years, funding nearly quadrupled to more than $19 million. In FY10, as economic conditions worsened, lawmakers stayed the course, growing investments by a more modest five percent. FY11 marks the first year a significant cut has been made to the program.

"New state leaders need to understand that creating a highly educated workforce in New Mexico begins before kindergarten," said Carl Luff, president of White & Luff Financial, Inc. "We have to make smart investments now that will benefit our children and our communities down the line."

New Mexico's children who attend the state-funded pre-k program have achieved significant positive effects in vocabulary, math and literacy skills at the beginning of kindergarten, according to a 2010 statewide study from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

"Limited dollars mean that policy makers should invest wisely, and we know this program works," said Marci Young, director of Pre-K Now. "Kids can't wait. If we don't invest in our children now, they'll be ill-equipped to succeed later."

The nonpartisan annual report, "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2011," reviewed action on publicly funded pre-k programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies.

Research shows that high-quality pre-k helps narrow the achievement gap, reduces grade repetition and special education placements, increases high school graduation rates, reduces crime and delinquency and leads to greater employment and higher earnings as adults.

For more details about "Votes Count," please visit http://www.preknow.org/votescount/nm.cfm  

Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, is a leading voice in the movement for voluntary high-quality pre-kindergarten for three and four year olds. Designed as a catalytic ten-year effort to spur growth in an emerging education policy arena, Pre-K Now uses four decades of evidence showing early learning programs help all children succeed to drive policy changes at the state and federal level.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. www.pewcenteronthestates.org

SOURCE The Pew Center on the States



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