NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The state is introducing a new program to boost pay for early childhood educators to ensure pre-k teachers and directors are paid the same as their k-12 counterparts with equal qualifications.

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One longtime pre-k teacher in Silver City said she believes the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department’s Pay Parity Program could help retain staff and attract new educators needed in the state.

Mikila Crespin, from Laguna Pueblo, has always had a passion for teaching and being a mentor. “The family, kind of, dynamic up there is the older cousins or family members kind of help out and watch the younger family members,” Crespin explained.

As a pre-k teacher for nearly seven years, Crespin said she’s seen the impact on her young students at Western New Mexico University Child Development Center.

“I feel like it’s super beneficial and it’s amazing to have these children come in that, you know, need more support, in the social-emotional part of development and just kind of see them flourish and grow,” Crespin added.

She’s one of the first New Mexico teachers to qualify for the pay parity program, which aligns with the Public Education Department’s salary scales “based on an extensive review and comparison of salaries among 31 school districts across the state,” according to a news release from the ECECD. Those eligible for the payment fall into the following categories:

  • Category 1: Bachelor’s Degree/0-3 years of experience in NM pre-k
  • Category 2: Bachelor’s Degree/more than three years of experience in NM pre-k
  • Category 3: Master’s Degree or Doctorate/five or more years of experience in NM pre-k

“To be eligible, applicants must be a teacher or director in a community-based New Mexico PreK setting (not public school) and hold at least a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Multicultural Education, or other degree paired with an alternative licensure in early childhood,” the release states.

“Many centers really want to offer higher wages but if they raised wages, tuition increases and parents wouldn’t be able to pay. So we have basically a broken market,” ECECD Director of Communications Micah McCoy stated.

The state is estimating 133 teachers, 46 directors and 38 teaching assistants qualify for the monthly payments from the state, starting this month through June. This will boost educator salaries within a range of $41,000 to $65,613, depending on geographic location, their education and experience.

“I think it is life-changing because I’m a first-gen grad,” Crespin said.

Crespin and the state are also hoping this could help New Mexico recruit and retain talented, qualified and diverse pre-k educators amid a longtime shortfall. The state estimates New Mexico has a shortage of as many as 2,000 early childhood educators. That includes teachers, directors and other professionals.

The money for this program comes from a $3 million legislative appropriation for this school year. For more information or to apply, visit