On Tuesday, New Mexico voters approved a ballot measure that will invest millions of dollars into public education, including a new dedicated funding stream for early education, child care and home-visiting programs.
Constitutional Amendment 1, which would amend the state’s constitution to allow New Mexico to draw new funds from its sovereign wealth fund, passed with approximately 70% of all votes cast.
The leader of an organization that provides home visiting services in New Mexico celebrated the news of a cascade of new money for early childhood education at a victory party on Tuesday night.
“This is better than New Year’s Eve. I don’t think anybody gives us $150 million on New Year’s Eve, huh? So we’re going to celebrate. We’re changing the state,” said Allen Sánchez, president of CHI St. Joseph’s Children, in an article in The Santa Fe New Mexican.
Olé, a grassroots advocacy group that helped pass the measure, said that the Southwestern state was the first to guarantee a constitutional right to education for children ages 0 to 5, which would have a lasting impact.
“New Mexico voters have passed this historical legislation — the first of its kind in the nation — that will change the lives of children, parents and the future of New Mexico forever,” the group said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
Unlike most states, New Mexico has a trust fund that it uses for some public services. Established in 1912, the Land Grant Permanent Fund is largely financed by oil and gas revenues and interest from investments. The state constitution mandates that 5% of the nearly $22 billion fund be spent annually on schools, universities, prisons and hospitals.
The new measure allows lawmakers to draw an additional 1.25% on the five-year average of the fund’s total. Forty percent of this new money will be spent on “enhanced instruction for students at risk of failure,” extending the school year and teacher compensation. The remainder will be used for pre-K education, child care and services.
Analysis from the nonpartisan New Mexico Legislative Council Service estimated that for fiscal year 2023, an additional 1.25% distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund would result in more than $211 million.
The successful passage of the constitutional amendment was the culmination of a decade-long fight to create a dedicated funding stream for early education.
New Mexico has ranked 49th or 50th in the nation for child well-being in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report, which measures state performances of 16 economic, education, health and family-based indicators. The state also has one of the highest child poverty rates in the nation. Roughly 28% of New Mexican kids under the age of 5 live in poverty as well as 25% of children under age 18, according to recent federal numbers.
A catalyst for the push to increase funding for children was a ruling in a consolidated lawsuit that included the Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico cases, according to New Mexico Legislative Council Service.
The resulting ruling by the First Judicial District Court declared that New Mexico failed to adequately provide education for at-risk students, English language learner students, Native American students and special education students. The court also cited a deficiency in the state’s education funding, which helped drive support for the constitutional amendment.
The U.S. Congress must now approve the change to the state’s constitution, a process that is underway, according to the New Mexico Political Report.
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