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Plan urges lawmakers to improve NM's child well-being rank

Updated: 09/23/2013 1:50 PM | Created: 09/23/2013 1:30 PM
By: Nikki Ibarra and Elizabeth Reed, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Child advocates angry that New Mexico ranks last in a recent child well-being study have introduced a plan they hope will push state lawmakers to action.

On Monday, New Mexico Voices for Children released a proposal called "New Mexico Kids Are Counting on Us." The group says there are a number of factors the state needs to improve on to help children, including economic well-being, education, health and family/community.

"New Mexico has real problems when it comes to the well-being of our children, but they are not insurmountable," said Veronica C. García, executive director of the child advocacy organization. "There is no single solution. Instead, we need a comprehensive plan. Our children can't do well if their parents aren't doing well, so many of these policies target our state's economic problems."

The proposal is structured to address each of the 16 indicators of child well-being that are measured in the annual Data Book, which ranked New Mexico last in June 2013.

According to the report, 31 percent of New Mexico kids live at the poverty level. Voice for Children says raising the minimum wage would help fix this problem.

As for education, 79 percent of New Mexico fourth graders aren't reading at the right level. Voice for Children proposes restoring K-12 funding to pre-recession levels and increasing funding for early childhood programs.

"They're not going to materialize without the funding and so we really do need to make children a priority in our state and that's what this call to action is," Dr. Garcia said.

Voices for Children's plan also includes restoring outreach efforts to enroll all eligible children in Medicaid, expanding adult basic education programs and curbing tax cuts.

"Not only are these tax cuts not working, but this is a backward approach to luring jobs to the state," said James Jimenez, Director of Policy, Research, and Advocacy Integration. "Companies don't want to come here if we're not doing a good job of educating our workforce. Not only do our children deserve better, but our investments in them today will yield a more prosperous future for all New Mexicans."

Photo: KOB File Photo

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