LAS CRUCES – Voters in New Mexico will be asked this fall whether they support passage of constitutional amendment raising the amount of money dedicated to public school funding.
Currently, 5 percent of the state’s Land Grand Permanent Fund goes toward funding public education. A question on the November General Election ballot will ask voters whether 6.25 percent of the fund — an increase of 1.25 percent — should be taken out each year to support education initiatives. Specifically, it would increase the amount for public school funding for at-risk students by $75 million annually and allocate about $125 million to early childhood education programs in the state.
Those against the ballot measure say the permanent fund should be left alone, arguing the more money that’s in the fund means the more the fund can accrue, leaving the state in better financial health moving forward.
The Vote YES for Kids! campaign has a different outlook, advocating for passage of the ballot question. Organizers will launch their statewide campaign an event Thursday, May 26, in Sunland Park.
Daisy Ann Maldonado, executive director for the Empowerment Congress of Doña Ana County, said that Empowerment Congress is one of 20 New Mexico organizations that are working together on this statewide campaign.
“We are organizing and leading the event that’s going to be in Sunland Park later this week, and then we’re doing our part to do outreach in the community,” Maldonado said. “In particular, we are doing a door to door a really short door to door canvassing effort this month.”
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Maldonado said the goal is to knock on the doors of 5,000 homes and have conversations with at least 1,000 residents. As of Tuesday, the group had visited 3,707 homes and had 959 conversations.
Vote YES for Kids! event at Sunland Park Sports Complex, local early child care providers, parents and educators will speak about this funding the ballot could provide and how these resources would impact the lives of New Mexican children. Maldonado said there will be a skatepark, playground and splashpad for families to enjoy at the new facility.
“We also are going to be inviting the Department of Health to host a vaccine clinic,” Maldonado said. “Parents could come and learn, and we’re gonna have snacks and food trucks, and then they could just enjoy the park as well, as the school year comes to an end.”
Maldonado hopes that this event and the campaign can help spread the awareness of the ballot question. She explained that it is very different from some past education-related ballot questions.
“First, it has really nothing to do with anyone’s personal taxes,” she said. “This is a school fund that was set up when the New Mexico Constitution was written, so we have a revenue that’s set aside to fund schools. What this is, is just sort of changing that formula, just taking a little bit more money out of that fund.
“Then the other thing is, this is really funding that’s going to be specific for early childhood education, and this would provide opportunity and choice for parents.”
Maldonado touched on the rising number of families who are unable to find early childhood care or education services due to high demand and low amount of providers.
There has been a recent push to focus on early childhood development with the formation of the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department in 2019. It officially launched in July 2020.
Several local child care providers will be at Thursday’s event to share their experience working in the market and what extra funding could do for the industry.
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“If we prioritize our youngest children, right, and our youngest citizens, and we provide them all of the things that they need to grow up to be like healthy, educated, thriving adults, that’s going to transform New Mexico,” she said.
Legislators have tried to get this sort of funding moving for several years. In 2021, the proposal finally made it through the finance committee and the full senate after six previous attempts.
The campaign event will start at 4 pm Thursday at the Sunland Park Sports Complex at 4700 McNutt Road.
Miranda Cyr, a Report for America corps member, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mirandacyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.