Voters signal support for more than investments in early childhood
“Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and this world,” said author Sharon Salzberg. The recent election tells us a great deal about how committed New Mexicans are to our children and their families. New Mexico voters have spoken loud and clear– and they want the highest quality early care and education programs fully supported and available to all. Beyond the passage of constitutional amendment #1, which directs the state to withdraw additional funding from our $24 billion Permanent School Fund to expand these services, voters’ choices at the polls also voiced their support for many of the policies lawmakers enacted in recent years.
These policies include statewide paid sick leave so parents can take care of a sick child, the expansion of health care coverage for new mothers, an historic expansion of child care assistance so parents have great, affordable environments in which to leave their children while they work, more support for teachers and classrooms, common-sense gun safety, environmental protections, the creation of a new state-level child tax credit, and expansions of other credits that together improve racial and gender equity in the tax code.
State lawmakers can see this election as an affirmation of their work making children a top policy priority, as well as a call for more. This means lawmakers should continue their work to bring even more equity to our tax code by increasing the new child tax credit, while also supporting public and environmental health programs and continuing to increase investments in culturally appropriate cradle-to-career education.
When voters approved additional funding for early education and K-12, they sent a clear message to lawmakers that they want major new investments in our children’s education. They want living wages for early educators and teachers, continued affordable child care, universal pre-kindergarten, and better resources for classrooms. They want to see investments that will take New Mexico from 50th to 1st in education. That means lawmakers should not use these new funds to replace or supplant existing funds for education and early learning and care programs. That issue – along with the others previously mentioned – will be among the policies we will advocate for when legislators meet at the Roundhouse in January.
We’re now celebrating an incredible victory for New Mexico’s children with the voters’ approval of constitutional amendment #1. But the work is not done. The election is over, but don’t let that stop you from raising your voice for children, families, and communities in the state; raising your voice in support of the programs that matter most to you, your children, and your family’s health and well-being – whether they be programs like those supported by the constitutional amendment (child care assistance, home visiting, early intervention and pre-kindergarten), or others not mentioned here. And don’t stop raising your voice to demand the bright future New Mexico can create. Thanks to our lawmakers and voters, New Mexico is becoming a leader in what policy can look like when we put kids at the heart of it, and the state is just getting started.
Amber Wallin, MPA, is Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children.