New Mexico last in child well-being ranks

Posted at: 06/24/2013 6:43 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

“Thank God for Mississippi” is a phrase well-known to many New Mexicans. That state has historically been dead last on every important quality of life list – but not anymore. Mississippi has moved up to 49th on the national “Kids Count” list, while our state has dropped to 50th.

New Mexico now ranks as the worst state in the nation when it comes to the well-being of our children. The “Kids Count” data-book ranks our state at number fifty, with low scores for things like education, health, and economic security.  True, New Mexico never has ranked above 40th, but 50th place really hurts.

It’s not that we’re doing so much worse than we did last year. It’s just that Mississippi has made giant strides in things like the rate of kids attending pre-school. In fact teachers and school administrators say early education is the key to overall improvement in academic performance. 62 percent of New Mexico kids don’t attend pre-school, one of the lowest rates in the country.

“When we receive our kids and we see what it is that they’re lacking, they’re already behind the 8-ball,” said teacher Sonya Romero. “It makes it harder for us as teachers to catch them up in such as limited amount of time and with such limited resources that we have.”

Joan Baker owns and operates “My Happy Place” pre-school in Edgewood.

“The amount I’m able to pay my teachers, for the most part they can go make more working at McDonald’s or Arby’s,” Baker said. “At Smith’s being a bagger they can make more money. I have a high turnover and it’s hard for the kids to connect and learn when that teacher is gone in a few months.”

“This state lags behind in early childhood education,” said Albuquerque school superintendent Winston Brooks. In kindergarten we’ve got kids who can read just ten sight words and we’ve got kids who can read a novel. I think we have to really do a much better job with that.”

New Mexico got worse in the last year with almost one third of the kids living in poverty and 43 percent now in single parent families.

In fact most of the categories where New Mexico improved are in education, and most where the state got worse are in economic well-being. This last place ranking is yet another defining snapshot of just how devastating the recession has been in our state.

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