By Dist 52 REP. DOREEN Y. GALLEGOS
New Mexico House of Representatives
Last year when the Governor included universal PreK in her moonshot for education, I jumped for joy.
Finally, New Mexico has a Governor who has big ideas and is willing to invest in programs that we know work. PreK and other early childhood programs work, I have seen it firsthand throughout my 25 years as a social worker.
Research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age five and importantly, families who have access to high-quality early childhood services are more likely to thrive.
It’s with this kind of conclusive evidence that we know investing in early childhood education needs to be a priority. We need to ensure that there is a high-quality, full-day, PreK seat for every 3- and 4-year old in New Mexico, and grow programs such as home visiting to ensure that every child gets the start in life they deserve.
Year after year my colleagues in the legislature and I engage in conversations about how to fund these critical programs. There’s bipartisan acceptance that early childhood programs are worth the investment but there is never agreement on how to balance funding what we’re doing now, while also ensuring financial stability in the future.
That’s why, for the last few years, I’ve been working to pin down the right way to stabilize funding for early childhood education – so that we can plan for growth and know we’ll have funds well into the future.
This the promise of an endowment fund for early childhood education: A protected fund of invested dollars that provides a dedicated stream of money just for early childhood education, year after year. The Governor just announced her support for this fund and I am thrilled to work with her to make it happen.
With our budget surplus at close to one billion dollars next year, this is our opportunity to establish an endowment that would benefit our youngest children for years to come. We can afford to allocate $300 to $500 million for a few years to establish the fund, which would then generate at least an additional $50 million a year to add to the dollars we already invest in early childhood. We know these endowments work.
We have a dedicated stream of funding for public education from the Land Grant Permanent Fund, and this endowment would operate similarly. We can work to ensure we protect this fund from economic downturns so it can grow over time and become an asset for our future generations. We know how to budget for consistent, recurring revenue through smart investments and dedicated funding streams that are set aside. We’ve done it since I’ve been in the Legislature with our new Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund and historically with the Land Grant Permanent Fund – I know we can do it again.
We’ve been working to crack the nut of consistent funding for early childhood education for years. The stars have aligned with a great leader in the Governor’s office, a budget surplus in search of smart investments, and children who deserve the best this state can give them. An Early Childhood Education Endowment Fund will secure investments in early childhood for all of New Mexico’s children, and set us all on the road to opportunity.