SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday signed Senate Bill 22, establishing a new Cabinet-level state department that will lead a unified expansion and transformation of early childhood education in New Mexico.

Surrounded by dozens of legislative leaders, sponsors and child welfare advocates, Gov. Lujan Grisham celebrated the forthcoming launch of the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which will, in expanding program eligibility and transferring program management currently scattered across other departments, provide New Mexico families and children from birth through age five with consistent access to high-quality care and education services, to include early intervention, family support, early childhood special education and home visitation as well as early pre-kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.

Both chambers, with bipartisan support, overwhelmingly approved the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Michael Padilla.

“This new department is the vehicle,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said, “to arguably the most important turnaround we must and will make as a state in the coming years. Even while we occasionally disagree on the funding mechanisms, New Mexicans across the political spectrum agree on the importance of early childhood education. This department is an investment in our children, and thus in our shared future. It is an important step forward. We have many more steps to take, and I will continue to lead the push, and, on behalf of families across New Mexico, I’m grateful to legislators who put our shared principles into practice with this bill.”

“This is perhaps the most important thing that we have done in decades to turn around poverty and improve our economy here in New Mexico,” Sen. Padilla said. “By creating the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care we will see true consistency, accountability, and quality through the entire continuum of early education. I’d like to thank everyone who helped with this monumental effort, and extend a special appreciation to Governor Lujan Grisham for her support and recognition that the welfare of our state’s youngest and most vulnerable should be at the top of any priority list.”

“Every child deserves access to quality early childhood education to unlock their potential,” said co-sponsor Rep. Linda Trujillo. “As we work together to put our children first, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department will improve educational outcomes for our youngest. I am proud that this legislation will be signed into law so that all New Mexico students can truly succeed and thrive.”