ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There’s a new push for the state to have more bilingual and Indigenous language teachers for early childhood education. New Mexico will be investing millions in recruiting and training this workforce at the state’s higher education institutions. Officials say this initiative is about building a diverse workforce and early childhood education programming.

“We know that our early childhood programs and services really need to be designed to meet the needs of multi-cultural, linguistically diverse communities and children and we plan to do this with this new partnership,” New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky explained.

“This money will be used to build really robust early childhood education programs and teacher education colleges across the state,” New Mexico Higher Education Department Deputy Secretary Patricia Trujillo added.

Part of the ECECD’s budget for the coming fiscal year includes $7 million that will go to New Mexico public colleges and universities to recruit and support bilingual and indigenous teachers. The ECECD is working in collaboration with the state’s Higher Education Department.

The schools can use those funds to set up endowments to hire more faculty and staff for their departments; add courses focused on multi-cultural early childhood education, which includes bilingual classes; and implement new recruitment strategies focusing on diversity.

The director of an early childhood center in the Cochiti Pueblo said this could be crucial in addressing educational inequities in our state and to help preserve native languages. But, she wants to make sure tribal leaders are part of the conversation about how this could roll out.

“Those are sovereign nations that have the right to determine what education looks like for their children. They absolutely want to be part of designing education settings,” Keres Children’s Learning Center Director Trisha Moquino said.

The two departments say they want to hear from higher education institutions about what types of creative and innovative ideas they have for this initiative. That will help the state determine which schools will get the funding.

The state also offers several scholarships and financial options for early childhood educators, including the Grow Your Own Teacher Scholarship, the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship, and the Teacher Loan for Service and Loan Repayment Programs. For students to become eligible or to learn about these opportunities, they can fill out the free application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and they can inquire within their college or university to find out more about it.