In March 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 22 into law, establishing the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department, a cabinet-level state agency charged with overseeing early childhood programs across the state. After a transitional period, the new department launched officially in July 2020.
The state then enacted a $109 million expansion of New Mexico PreK to improve pre-K teacher compensation, increase instructional hours, and expand access to pre-K for thousands of children across the state. As a result, pre-K enrollment grew from 10,989 children in fiscal year 2019 to 14,183 in fiscal year 2022. During this time, the state also expanded the Child Care Assistance Program, doubling the eligibility threshold for families from 200 percent to as much as 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
The creation of a new department does not automatically create better outcomes for children, but it can help provide the structure and coordination needed to improve early education quality and accessibility across a state or city (Kagan & Gomez, 2015).
National Conference of State Legislatures (2022). Early Childhood: What’s Governance Got to Do With It?
New Mexico Legislature (2019) SB 22
Brookings Institute (April 2023). New Mexico’s early childhood education amendment is a model for economic mobility other states should consider.
Forbes (2022) For Child Care Gains; Look to States, Not the Feds.
Kagan, L. and Gomez, R. (Eds.). (2015) Early Childhood Governance: Choices and Consequences. Teachers College Press.
Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:
Learn More about ELS@H Findings
Strong infrastructure and systems – including governance structures and data systems – are key aspects of high-quality early education and care. And research suggests there is a need for more accessible, affordable, and high-quality early education within a mixed-delivery system; strengthening infrastructure and systems is one important way states and cities can take action to address these needs and accomplish these goals.
Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) that connect to the need for more robust infrastructure and systems, including data systems:
- Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
- But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.
- No one early education setting type is inherently of higher quality than another; children develop and learn well in every setting type, and in the study, all setting types showed room to grow in quality.
- We have learned a great deal from this groundbreaking, large-scale study. Nevertheless, there is still much to learn about what children, families, and educators need, and about what “works” – for whom and under what circumstances – across all the diverse settings where young children learn and grow.