Nearly $100M headed to New Mexico early childhood education department

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nearly $100 million is headed to the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department after this past legislative session.

The state department has three main goals:

  • Expand access to early childhood education, especially in rural areas
  • Recruit more qualified teachers for those programs
  • Increase the number of hours three and four-year-olds will have in the classroom

This will be the largest expansion of New Mexico’s pre-K program since the department was founded in 2005.

“Thousands of children and thousands of families will have access to high-quality pre-K in places they already have, but also in communities across the state that didn’t already have access to pre-K,” said Elizabeth Groginsky, ECECD cabinet secretary.

Groginsky said the money is a game changer when it comes to rural areas.

“Different families have different needs, so we want to make sure we have pre-K in our early childhood centers in our schools and school-based programs, and our head starts and in our tribal communities,” Groginsky said.

The department currently has a requirement that children are in the classroom for 900 hours. That requirement is bumping up to 1,080 hours.

“We know from the research in our own state and nationally that investments in early childhood education is one of the best investments you can make in really turning the tide in so many challenges we face in New Mexico,” Groginsky said.

The secretary said the changes could increase proficiency in reading and math, as well as improve the state’s graduation rate further down the road.