ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state is pumping nearly one hundred million dollars into expanding Pre-K. It’s all part of a push for universal Pre-K in New Mexico Tuesday, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department announced plans to get closer to that goal.

The Cabinet Secretary of that department, Elizabeth Groginsky, says this undertaking will be the largest expansion of the Pre-K program so far. “We’re going to increase access to New Mexico Pre-K by at least 40 percent, thousands of children, and that means thousands of families are going to have access to high-quality Pre-K in places where they already have but also in communities across the state, we hope, that have not had access to Pre-K,” Groginsky says.

Story continues below:

Groginsky, joined by other department officials, laid out the big plans they have for the extra money they’re getting this year—about double what they got last year for this program according to Groginsky. “We are going to be able to fully invest in our birth to five-year-old early care and education system,” Groginsky says.

Besides expansion, the $98M is also going towards rising costs, including increased salaries and increased instructional hours. “We know that so many New Mexico families struggle every day to find access to high-quality care; many of them need care all day, all year, 10 to 10 and a half hours a day so that they can go to work or go to school and do what they need to do to support their family,” Groginsky says.

The secretary says the research supports their investments here: “80 percent of a child’s brain is fully developed by the time they’re three and we know these earliest experiences matter and they matter very significantly.”

However, with these changes comes the need for hundreds more workers. “600-800 more professionals that we would need. We estimate somewhere between 300-400 classrooms that would be part of this expansion,” Groginsky says.

The department is accepting applications from Pre-K programs looking for more funding. The department has a lot of work to do to get to universal Pre-K. As an example, the department says Albuquerque only has the facilities and staffing to serve 63 percent of four-year-olds in the city and only 20 percent of three-year-olds.