Commentary: This week, Senator Michael Padilla (D-Bernalillo) pre-filed legislation (SB22) that would establish the “Early Childhood Education and Care Department,” a new, cabinet-level department focusing on the needs of New Mexico’s youngest population.
“Early childhood education and care is our path to prosperity,” says Senator Padilla. “The creation of an Early Childhood Education and Care Department will help New Mexico drive a consistent and accountable method for closing the achievement gap and building a stronger economy.”
The new department would bring together and oversee multiple divisions responsible for the well-being of children and families in New Mexico, including childcare licensing, early childhood education, and early intervention services.
“Placing all early childhood education and care efforts in a unified department will help drive an efficient use of resources that suddenly become fully measurable,” Padilla continues.
In addition to a Secretary level position to lead the department, the bill would establish a Native American Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood, guided by a body representative of New Mexico’s tribal communities.
Currently three states have standalone state-level departments to oversee their early childhood programs: Washington, Georgia and Massachusetts. Massachusetts has a Department of Early Education and Care, along with a Board of Early Education and Care. Washington has a cabinet-level Department of Early Learning and Georgia has established a Department of Early Care and Learning.
“New Mexico can tackle its widespread poverty issue by preparing our children at the earliest opportunity to succeed,” Senator Padilla concludes.