NMAEYC Policy Brief
It is Time…
NM’s Early Childhood Workers Are Essential Frontline Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic and Ensuing Fiscal Recovery
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” Martin Luther King Jr.
The New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children (NMAEYC) remained focused on our early childhood learning and care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. NMAEYC is New Mexico’s largest Early Childhood Learning and Care professional organization with over 1200 members statewide. This workforce provides crucial services to New Mexico’s first responders and other essential workers during the COVID 19 emergency. In fact, early childhood professionals have historically been the workforce that undergirds our state’s businesses and industries.
We recently disseminated a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on New Mexico’s early childhood learning and care workforce to all NMAEYC members and stakeholders. Over 500 respondents, from 27 of New Mexico’s 33 counties, overwhelmingly agreed that early childhood professionals continue to demonstrate their essential community value to New Mexico’s businesses, industries, and families by providing early childhood learning and care services throughout the duration of the COVID 19 pandemic. The survey data also underscored three areas of immediate concern for early childhood professionals:
- uncertainty around centers/schools reopening and returning to work.
- The availability of no-cost professional development opportunities for New Mexico’s early childhood workforce in order to support providers with a framework for reopening.
- Financial support and restructuring of New Mexico’s early childhood learning and care system to provide quality early childhood services.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis—especially the freefall of crude oil prices—means New Mexico legislators face tough economic decisions. The General Budget Fund, for example, has grown by more than 20% over the last two years, but it is highly dependent on oil and gas prices for continued growth. NMSU economics professor Christopher Erickson said, “If the sharp drop in oil prices persists after the COVID-19 pandemic has receded, then New Mexico’s economy will struggle.” The urgency for legislators to enact economic reform that diversifies the economy beyond oil and gas has never been more clear. Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will also strain the General Budget Fund due to increased unemployment rates, closure of non-essential businesses, entertainment venues, and restaurants.
New Mexico’s long-term economy is dependent on an early childhood learning and care system that works for every family. Given the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic on New Mexico’s economy, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico’s legislators must provide financial support to ensure that a robust early childhood learning and care system is available to parents as they return to work and restart our economy. We thank Governor Lujan-Grisham and New Mexico legislators for their efforts in signing the Trust Fund for Early Childhood Initiative and establishing the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, but there is still more important work to be done.
In addition to economic reforms that diversify the economy beyond oil and gas, legislators need to provide financial relief to the early childhood learning and care system. We respectfully ask that New Mexico’s economic reformers consider the following recommendations:
- pass the Early Childhood Constitutional Amendment, Permanent Funds for Early Childhood, HJR 1, to provide reliable and sustainable funding for this crucial sector of our state. New Mexico’s businesses and industries count on quality early child care, and those services are vital to our state’s fiscal recovery.
- Ensure state funding that will allow the early childhood learning and care system to provide pay and benefits to staff, cover fixed costs, and continue expansion of services statewide.
- Continue support for centers that remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, including financial support for lost revenue and essential COVID 19 supplies and protective equipment.
It is time to recognize the foundational role that the early childhood workforce plays in the fiscal well-being of our entire state. It is time to recognize the importance of early childhood learning and care for every family in New Mexico. It is time to fully and appropriately fund early childhood learning and care.
Reyes, et al. (May, 2020). New Mexico’ early childhood workforce in times of COVID-19. New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children.
Erickson, (2020). NMSU Economist addresses economic impact of COVID-19. Las Cruces Sun News https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/community/2020/03/21/nmsu-economist-addresses-economic-impact-covid-19/2892128001/
New Mexico Economic Development Department (Jan – May, 2020) County Economic Summaries & Data Profiles.