Early Childhood Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said that the agency will request $816.4 million in the next state budget.
The $816 million request includes a $17 million increase from the previous year, Groginsky said during an advisory council meeting on Wednesday in Sunland Park.
The $17 million additional funding would come from money from the 1.25 percent additional distribution from the Permanent Land Grant Fund, which voters approved through a constitutional amendment in 2022.
The $816 million also includes $155 million to come from the Early Childhood Trust Fund, which is a $5 million increase from FY24.
The agency budget also includes $75.7 million to maintain the expanded eligibility for state subsidies for early childcare costs for families whose income is up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. It also will enable the agency to expand the early childhood access to higher quality care for 2,000 more infants and toddlers through contracted slots.
The advisory council voted on continuing the way the department has been setting rates for early childcare.
Jeanna Capito, representing an Illinois-based organization called Prenatal to Five Fiscal Strategies, said during the meeting that the current way the department sets rates creates “significantly to a more equitable childcare system.”
“The other way is to set market rate. None of us can afford what childcare costs,” Capito said.
She said that three years after the creation of the department, it is just now starting to move into what she called the “true cost” of early childcare.
She said when operating with the market rate, early childcare providers often have to cut corners, including operating with limited staffing ,in order to generate revenue.
New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen, who sits on the ECECD Advisory Council, asked about how the department can think ahead in terms of early childcare salaries.
“What I’m seeing is $15 [an hour] isn’t sufficient. It’s difficult to say the paradigm needs to change. How does this approach take that aspirational element into account?” He asked.
Capito talked of improving salaries so that individuals might aspire to become early childcare workers and emphasized work-life balance.
The council voted unanimously to continue the department’s alternative methodology when setting rates.
Groginsky said the department has been receiving 80 to 100 applications a day for background checks.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from people working in early childcare,” she said.
But some said the wait time to go through the department’s background check was too long and the agency needed to look for solutions to make it a shorter process.