The governor signed a bill that creates a cabinet-level department aimed at helping young children thrive.
The governor and lawmakers believe the Early Childhood Education and Care Department will help get kids from birth to five years of age off to a better start.
“We should be eliminating the achievement gap,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Given that we have a very clear lawsuit that says we are not meeting the educational needs of our students. The payoff starts earlier we get to these kids and their families, and the evidence about that quite frankly is unequivocal and we’re in a position to really provide it.”
That little girl with the governor is her granddaughter, Avery.
The new department will look after those kids until they get to kindergarten. The focus will be on pre-k, home visits and other child care assistance. Right now, the state spends hundreds of millions of dollars on early childhood programs under several different departments, like CYFD, the Department of Health and the Public Education Department.
Now, those programs for young kids will be under one roof. Education has been this session’s and the new administration’s top priority.
“With the governor’s moonshot, this is probably one of the biggest things New Mexico has done to eliminate and squash poverty in the state in decades,” said Sen. Michael Padilla, (D) Albuquerque. “It’s going to be felt for centuries, I hope.”
The bill calls for one-time spending of $1.25 million to get the department’s operations up and running.
Opponents argue the state will be spending too much and doesn’t need a new department.
The governor said the next step is to look for a physical location for this new department, as well as finding a new secretary.
This is one of many bills that the governor has signed. She is also expected to sign the Criminal Expungement Act and the Outdoor Recreation Division bill.