ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The latest “Kids Count” data book compiled by nonprofit NM Voices for Children shows New Mexico’s children saw some quality of life improvements from 2021 to 2022. That’s despite impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. But not everything is trending in a positive direction, according to the group.
“Given that the nation was still recovering from the worst of the pandemic recession, it’s particularly impressive that the data reflect no significant declines — and even some slight improvements — in child well-being,” the 85-page data book notes. “Most states saw some similar results in 2021 and much of that had to do with federal COVID relief funds. But states like New Mexico — that enacted public policies that help support working families—should see lasting improvements.”
For example, the data shows that the percent of New Mexican children living in poverty has been declining for years, as has the percent of young children not in school. The percentage of high school students not graduating on time has also dropped since 2008, the data reveals.
But not all of the data presented shows improvements. The percent of fourth graders in New Mexico scoring below proficient in reading has remained relatively constant over the last decade. The percent of eighth graders below proficient in math has actually risen in the last decade, the data shows.
And the percent of teens not attending school and not working is also about the same as it was a decade ago in New Mexico. At around 10% to 12%, New Mexico’s percent of teens not attending school and not working is around 40% to 70% higher than the U.S. average, the data shows.
Despite some indicators showing stagnation, officials at New Mexico Voices for Children say the data reveals the state’s lawmakers are making promising policy choices. “New Mexico’s Governor and Legislature have made several policy changes that will benefit New Mexico’s children and families long after the pandemic,” Amber Wallin, the executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said in a press release. But there is more work to be done, according to New Mexico Voices for Children.
“The annual report also includes policies for lawmakers to consider that would improve child well-being,” the organization said in a press release. “Among those are increasing the Child Tax Credit for low-income families and making it permanent, improving childcare access and early educator wages, diversifying the state’s revenue streams to decrease our over-reliance on oil and gas revenue, supporting economic opportunity measures such as minimum wage increases and paid family medical leave, and providing healthy school meals for every student.”
Lawmakers have already been split on some of these issues. In responding to the ‘State of the State’ speech by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Republican lawmakers balked at the idea that New Mexico has made great policy choices. “We heard about education, and the answer is always to spend more money,” Senator Greg Baca said Tuesday. “Our state is still 50th in the nation in education.”