January 28, 2022

Early Childhood Education and Care Department details fiscal plan and hopes for next four years

Laura Paskus

The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department released its first four-year fiscal plan, detailing what the department needs in order to deliver high-quality early childhood education and services.

The ECECD held a virtual press conference on Wednesday to detail the new plan. Some of the highlights include increasing childhood educator and staff wages and expanding access to PreK for more children. The department projected next fiscal year’s expenses to be $505,883,920 which is expected to serve 27,479 children. The department projects its budget request will increase to $943,289,473 and serve 47,091 children in three years and FY26 will be $943,289,473 and the department anticipates serving .

But the projected gap in revenue this year is $14,759,969. In three years that gap is projected to grow to $504,983,775.

Micah McCoy, public information officer for ECECD, told NM Political Report that the department hopes to rely on the Early Childhood Trust Fund and, if voter approved, changes to the Land Grant Permanent Fund that would tap an additional 1.25 percent from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to help meet the differences. Voters will be tasked in November with deciding whether to amend the state constitution in order to increase the percentage of funds coming from the fund 

Related: New Mexico congressional delegation seeking approval for state’s constitutional amendment

In addition, McCoy said there are some other possibilities. He said a revised version of the Build Back Better Act, which if passed through the U.S. Congress, could provide significant funding streams for early childhood education because the bill that failed in the U.S. Senate last year contained “major” funding appropriations to the states in it.

ECECD Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said that the Early Childhood Trust Fund, an initiative passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in 2020 is expected to have around $2 billion available to disburse by 2026 and that it is growing at a rate of $172 million a year.

“That is great news,” Groginsky said.

Equity

Groginsky spoke of the need to create a department that is attuned to issues of equity which she said is one reason why increasing salaries of early childcare workers is important.

Childcare workers in New Mexico make, on average, $10.26 per hour and are often women and, in particular, women of color, the report states. Often they are hired as part-time workers because childcare centers can’t afford to provide full-time benefits. The outcome is a high turnover rate when stable caregiving is important to brain development, according to the report.

In addition, to provide high-quality, trauma-responsive care, staff need access to mental health support, the report states.

Groginsky said the department considers $15 an hour as a base rate pay for early childcare workers and then wants to “make sure salaries go up.” She said that by Fiscal Year 2026, the department would like New Mexico early childcare worker base pay to be $18 an hour. The lead teacher’s wages in an early childcare education center would be $24.89 per hour, according to the report.

“We know what’s necessary to attract a well-compensated, credentialed workforce,” she said.

The plan also assumes the state’s expanded access to subsidized child care to families earning up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level will continue. That means that a family of four can qualify for assistance if they earn $92,750 per year or less. According to research, offering expanded child care assistance will increase parental employment and parents are more likely to work longer hours or attend school, the report states.

In New Mexico, nearly three-quarters of all pregnant women fall at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty line since 74 percent of all pregnant women in the state are covered by Medicaid, according to the report. Home visits that are tailored for the level of risk of both the parents and child in terms of socioeconomic issues, mental health conditions, health disparities and other factors is another equity issue the department is focused on.