The NCSL Blog


By Matt Weyer  

New Mexico is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of children aged birth to 5 living in poverty at 30 percent.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, right, D-Deming, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Mimi Stewart, left, D-Albuquerque, listen to early childhood experts during a workshop in Santa Fe, N.M., on July 19, 2018. Smith told The Associated Press he supports expanding pre-kindergarten programs with the right funding source. Photo: Russell Contreras,  Associated Press. While this may seem like an incredible challenge, it also presents an incredible opportunity for the state.

New Mexico legislators are committed to building a world-class early childhood education and care (ECEC) system, through expanding access to education and other services, improving early childhood data systems and supporting the development of a strong ECEC workforce.

In July, NCSL staff from the Education and Children and Families Programs led a day-long workshop on designing ECEC systems for the New Mexico Legislative Education Study Committee and the Legislative Finance Committee. Over 40 legislators, as well as two-dozen public attendees, heard from eight national and local experts on important policy levers identified by New Mexico legislative staff, including system coordination, ECEC workforce issues, leveraging community capacity and improving data integration and use.

Legislators were encouraged to share takeaways from each of these sessions. Some of these takeaways included:

  • The need to more effectively address the large percentage of NM children who are non-native English-speakers
  • The importance of targeting funding to the students who need the most support
  • The need for more disaggregated ECEC data
  • The need for the ECEC system to collaborate with New Mexico’s higher education system to improve ECEC workforce outcomes

NCSL gratefully acknowledges the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for its support of this workshop. Check out an infographic on the economic imperative for closing early learning opportunity gaps, along with strategies included in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

To learn more about NCSL’s work on closing opportunity gaps through early learning opportunities in ESSA, please visit NCSL’s webpages on closing opportunity gaps and early learning and support.

Matt Weyer is a senior policy specialist in NCSL's Education Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.