Finance plan projects big gaps for early childhood initiatives in coming years | Education

Even though the birth rate in New Mexico is trending down, The state agency serving children 5 and under plans to reach more children and families, but foresees large funding shortfalls to do so.

While federal relief funds are expected to provide an additional $14.7 million in fiscal year 2023, the state Department of Early Childhood Education and Care — which relies on a combination of federal, state, and grant funds—projects a revenue gap of more than $296 million in fiscal year 2024 that grows to more than $504 million by fiscal year 2026.

The agency chief said officials were now moving to deal with the potential problem.

“We believe that if we can actually solve this problem and fund it, we will see that families in New Mexico will have more choices,” Department of Early Childhood Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said Thursday at a conference. Press. “We’re going to see both short-term and long-term improvements in our education and health outcomes.”

In November, the department requested $201.7 million from state lawmakers from the general fund and early childhood trust fund for fiscal year 2023 — including more than $49 million from the general fund for the child care assistance, $43 million for public preschool, and $32 million for private. preschool.

Also that month, the newly created agency released a four-year financial plan demonstrating a deeper picture of the needs of a state attempting to serve its youngest citizens through services such as childcare, kindergarten and home visits.

The plan was mandated by 2019 legislation creating the department – one of the first of its kind in the country – and highlights a need for funding that covers the “true cost of services”, according to the plan.

“We need to increase investment,” Groginsky said. “This system has been woefully underfunded and not just in New Mexico. New Mexico is way ahead of the game. It’s a national problem.”

The plan emphasizes the need for higher pay for child care workers and home visitors to reduce turnover and improve the quality of services and the need to look beyond beyond public funds to achieve this.

“We have business and philanthropy…we have attracted private funding at some level,” she said. “We work closely with our [Native] nations on how to leverage funding, and we know the federal government is a big part of the support we get. »

Childcare Aid, the branch of the department serving around 19,000 children this year, is expected to reach nearly 27,500 in 2023 and expand to more than 47,000 by 2026.

The projection comes from an assumption that parental employment will increase as the state continues to support child care assistance in future years.

Birth rate projections from University of New Mexico researchers show that if recent declines continue, the number of children under age 6 in the state could drop from 134,192 in 2023 to 121,335 in 2026.

The potential funding sources are significant: The Early Years Trust Fund could bring in $172 million a year by 2026, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.

If voters approve a decision in November to tap into the state’s Permanent Land Grant Fund for Education Initiatives, the department could see an additional $147 million to $150 million each year.

After announcing an expansion of coronavirus pandemic-era child care assistance eligibility this summer to high-income families across the state, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed hope that these funds could be used to make the expansion more permanent.

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