by Lisa Shin
Expanding pre-K access is a positive step forward for New Mexico’s children. Research shows the benefits of early education, especially for “high risk” kids living with poverty, abuse, and neglect. Chris Chandler says that “there may be financial pain” (link) involved with raiding our Land Grant Permanent Fund or raising taxes to fund more public pre-K. In the 2019 legislative session, there will undoubtedly be another push for a constitutional amendment to do just that, with the end goal of a “universal pre-K” pipe dream.
There’s a better way for NM.
With some common sense, creativity, collaboration, and better use of existing resources, we can expand pre-K in a way that is effective and financially sustainable. Consider the following:
1. Our State Legislature already prioritizes early childhood education. Funding has increased from $136,500,000 in FY 2012 to $244,200,000 in FY 2017. Our State’s PED has added $10 million to the pre-K program for a total of $33.6 million for the 2019. Los Alamos will be one of 11 districts that will receive the additional funding.
2.New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca aptly said, “We don’t want to put 700 private preschools out of business.” Many years ago, the Los Alamos National Lab decided to provide childcare for its employees. However, smaller, private pre-K schools protested and stopped this initiative. They would have been unable to compete with a free, employer sponsored program. I agree with Apodaca’s call for public-private partnerships and community driven iniatives: “I think the answer is working with the communities, working with nonprofits and organizations that know the community better than anybody else — both in the rural communities and cities like Alburquerque. How can we fund programs, nonprofit, government and, yes, even the private sector? How can we bring them all together to make sure that every child has early family intervention and early childhood education? Then we can fund 3- to 4-year-old programs around the state, and preschool for all.”
3. The regulatory burden is forcing pre-K schools to close their doors. At the Kiwanis candidate forum last week, Chris Chandler called the need for regulatory reform a “red herring.” However, there are numerous examples of such government overreach. In New York City, a charter pre-K school was forced to close its doors due to onerous regulations. Representative Dow is right when she talks about “the need for more flexibility in the state’s licensing requirements.” Further, one of the biggest blocks for starting up a pre-K school in NM is the application process. It is too complicated and expensive to comply with the state’s requirements for instruction materials, toys, natural light, and square footage for infants’ rooms.
4. There is a lack of collaboration and cooperation between our existing federal Head Start program, and our state-funded pre-K. Competition between these 2 programs means that efforts are duplicative, our tax dollars are wasted, and our kids lose out. We must effectively combine state and federal funds to expand our pre-K network.
5. I support programs such as the NM Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD), which offers direct assistance for families who cannot afford pre-K. Parents choose the care that is best for their children, whether a licensed center or before-and-after school program.
6. Quality of our children’s teachers, not early childhood education, has the most impact on a student’s academic achievement. We must prepare, recruit, and retain good teachers for our K-12 school program.We ought use our finite resources to improve and strengthen our K-12 schools, and adequately fund programs like CYFD.
There is no need to inflict financial pain on New Mexicans. Vote against financial pain, on November 6, 2018!
I am the only candidate in this race who will fight for the taxpayers, and be a strong advocate for our government’s highest and best use of our hard-earned tax dollars.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Text “LISA43” to 555888 for campaign updates.