A Senate committee passed, with no recommendation, a bill that aims to reduce expulsions and suspensions for young learners by a 5-3 vote. SB 283 would, if enacted, prohibit the expulsion or suspension for more than three days of preschool, pre-K, kindergarten and first and second grade students. The bill would also make expelling or suspending for up to three days an option only if a child causes or threatens bodily injury to another person. It also contains a provision for data collection by both the Early Childhood Education and Care Department and by the Public Education Department on suspensions and expulsions. State Sen. Harold Pope, D-Albuquerque, is the sponsor.
The state will initiate a new program for some new parents of newborns that will provide limited in-home nursing visits within three weeks postpartum. The New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department are partnering with University of New Mexico Hospital to provide the service. The start of the program is limited to individuals who reside in Bernalillo County and who receive prenatal care at the UNM Eubank Women’s Health Clinic and deliver at UNM Hospital. A spokesperson for NMDOH said growth of the project depends on “a wide range of community partners and their support for the work to move forward.”
The program provides up to three nurse visits, with the first visit being in person. The nurse checks in on support for the parent’s health care, support for infant care, support for a safe home and support for the parents, according to a news release.
The state launched a new tool to help families find childcare last week. The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department launched the online tool to assist parents looking for child care options, according to a news release. The Child Care Finder website takes recent data from the state and populates the information into profiles for each child care program. ECECD’s Child Care Finder is available at: https://childcare.ececd.nm.gov/search
Early child care providers can customize their profiles and families can search for programs using various parameters, including zip code, age range, availability, quality rating, tuition and language. “This is such a good resource and communication tool, both for families and child care providers,” said JoEllen Bellington, Director of Fuzzy Slipper Family Child Care through the release.
In November, voters will vote whether an additional 1.25 percent of distribution will come from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to help support early childcare education in New Mexico, as well as address some of the concerns raised in the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit. The fund, also known as the Permanent School Fund, at around $25 billion, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. It grows annually based on a rolling five-year average, which protects the fund from stock market crashes and reductions in oil and gas revenues. The state currently distributes 5 percent of the fund, annually, to the New Mexico Public Education Department and to 20 other public institutions. For 10 years legislators and early childcare advocates worked on a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide if an additional 1.25 percent of the fund’s growth could be spent on early childcare and at-risk students.
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 .
On August 1, New Mexico will expand early child care assistance to allow a family of four with a nearly $93,000 yearly income eligible for assistance from the state, among other early childcare changes. Some have said the expansions to early childcare could empower women in New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Early Childhood Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky announced earlier this month that, through funding from the federal American Rescue Plan, the state will expand who qualifies for early child care assistance. Micah McCoy, ECECD communications director, told NM Political Report that the income requirement for state assistance for early childcare is currently 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that equals about $53,000 a year, he said.
For the next two years, New Mexico will raise the income eligibility for childcare assistance from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 350 percent of the federal poverty level with a phase out at 400 percent of the federal poverty level, officials announced Thursday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Early Childcare Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and state Sen. Michael Padilla spoke during a press conference Thursday to announce the change. The press conference was also part of a one-year anniversary celebration for ECECD, which is an agency that began under the Lujan Grisham administration to improve early childcare education. The press conference was held in Santa Fe and online. The department will use emergency funds available through the federal American Rescue Plan to increase the assistance starting August 1.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials had a largely positive press conference related to COVID-19 on Thursday. While the governor addressed further discussions of further easing restrictions, she said the focus is currently on in-person education and childcare.
“Focus is on education. Number one priority,” Lujan Grisham said. “Because we know if we can do that successfully, we know we can do more business openings.”
But it was because of the continued improvement in numbers that officials can even consider starting a conversation. “All of our success is really behavior by New Mexico residents,” Lujan Grisham said.
The state will waive parent co-payments for child care for September and October. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) announced Wednesday that it will cover the revenue child care programs would have received from the parent co-payments and the state will include this amount in its regular monthly reimbursement checks. The ECECD has offered additional initiatives during the pandemic to support early child care, though some critics have said the efforts did not go far enough. Related: Childcare workers with COVID-19 can get state-funded insurance
The state has also offered free child care to essential workers and provided wage incentives to more than 3,100 early child care workers, according to the news release. The ECECD has also awarded Child Care Recovery and Stabilization grants to about 500 licensed child care facilities and partnered with other agencies to help connect families who need child care with providers who offer it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two state agencies are providing child care assistance to parents who need help during the coronavirus pandemic. The Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and the Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) made changes to the state’s early childhood policies in response to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health emergency declaration due to the spread of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus. The state is encouraging families to stay home as much as possible during the global pandemic. But if families need assistance with childcare during the public health emergency, the state has made changes to offer assistance. The state is also offering various forms of assistance to child care providers to encourage them to stay open during this time of crisis.