Early childhood education expansion could empower New Mexico women, advocates say

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.

NM expands early childcare subsidies

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.

Focus on education as state continues to see COVID-19 improvement

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.

State waives co-payments for childcare for next two months

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.

State offers assistance to families and child care providers during emergency

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.

Groginsky becomes New Mexico’s first early ed secretary

The New Mexico Senate unanimously confirmed the leader of the state’s newly established Early Childhood Education and Care Department on Friday following an overwhelming show of support from educators, child advocacy agencies and fellow Cabinet leaders. “Elizabeth Groginsky has already earned the respect of the early childhood community in New Mexico — as underscored by the deeply positive testimony we heard in support of her confirmation today,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in a statement after the Senate vote. Groginsky, 53, is a Colorado native and former Washington, D.C., education official who has spent her career in early childhood services and policy development. She is leading an agency that will consolidate a range of services for children from birth to age 5, as well as prenatal programs.

Lujan Grisham appointed Groginsky to the Cabinet position in November. Her confirmation comes as the governor and Legislature are working to close a gap in proposed spending on the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which is set to take over services when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Early ed endowment moves forward (Updated)

A bill calling for a new endowment to create a revenue stream for early childhood programs was approved Monday by the Senate Education Committee — surviving its first test in the Legislature. Under Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, the Early Childhood Education and Care Fund would get its first infusion of cash, $320 million, in fiscal year 2021. It would then get annual distributions from the state’s oil and gas emergency school tax and revenue from federal mineral leases until it reaches at least $1 billion. The Senate Education Committee unanimously voted in favor of the bill. Smith told lawmakers on the committee the fund would distribute $20 million for public and private early childhood education programs around New Mexico in its first year.

Building blocks: Big investment in early childhood aims to provide foundation for NM kids.

SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned on a promise to transform early childhood education throughout New Mexico. After a months-long nationwide search, she has found a candidate to lead the effort, which could command a budget of nearly half a billion dollars in the next fiscal year. In November, the governor named Elizabeth Groginsky as secretary-designate of the brand new Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which will coordinate health and education services for the state’s 120,000 children under age 5. Groginsky arrives from Washington, D.C., where she served as assistant superintendent of early learning for the district’s education department, bringing together early childhood services from across numerous agencies — much as she’ll be doing in New Mexico. This story originally appeared at Searchlight New Mexico and is reprinted with permission.