2015 Legislative Session
The session will open Jan. 20, 2015, and will end at noon on March 21, 2015. Interim committees are already meeting to prepare for the next session. For a schedule of interim committee hearings, check on the NM Legislature web site.
The coming session will see a continuation of efforts by early childhood advocates to increase funding for various programs, such as NM PreK, home visiting, child care assistance, T.E.A.C.H. scholarships and INCENTIVES pay supplements. It is expected that a constitutional amendment to earmark at least 1 percent of the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood will be reintroduced. It would provide $150 million a year to increase access and quality of early learning programs. The measure has failed in recent sessions. See Invest in Kids Now coalition web site for information about the proposal.
A NM Child Care and Education Task Force is meeting this year to look at ways to improve quality of early care and education in New Mexico. The task force likely will draft an an Early Care and Education Accountability Act for consideration by the legislature, similar to the Home Visiting Accountability Act adopted in 2013.
Results of 2014 Legislative Session
Financial support for early childhood programs increased $25.2 million or 13% in Fiscal Year 2015 over the previous year in the budget approved by the 2014 Legislature and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Increased funding for early childhood has been a priority in recent legislative sessions, as reported by the Legislative Finance Committee staff. The LFC includes some spending at the elementary grades in its calculation – in particular, the money for Kindergarten to Third Grade Plus for summer programs and money for early literacy coaches and training.
While the Legislature is finding additional money for early childhood from the general fund, the Senate Finance Committee blocked a proposal to add $100 million or more a year to early childhood spending by allocating at least 1% of the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood. About 5% of the fund is used for k-12 education each year, but none for early childhood birth to age five. The committee vote was very close. An amendment to make the percentage 1% instead of 1.5% -- to garner more support – failed in a tie, 5 to 5, vote on Feb. 17, 2014. That effectively killed the measure for the session.
The biggest boosts in early childhood funding – percentage wise – were for home visiting, 31 percent increase (to $10.6 million total) and for NM PreK, 26% increase (to $36.5 million). Services still reach relatively small percentages of families, despite the increases. The NM PreK funding for the first time included money for extended-day NM PreK to help working families. Large increases were also marked for K-Third Grade Plus summer programs, 32 percent increase (to $21.2 million total) and early literacy coaches and training in elementary grades, 26% increase (to $14.5 million total).
An effort by the NM Child Care and Education Association (NMCCEA) for a measure to exempt taxpaying early childhood programs from gross receipts taxes on NM PreK payments failed in the last hour of the legislative session. The measure, having passed the House, failed to make it to the Senate floor for consideration. The measure would increase the resources available to taxpaying early learning programs for improving quality.
Early childhood advocates, including the NMCCEA and the NM Association for the Education of Young Children (NMAEYC), were able to get a budget amendment approved by the Senate Finance Committee (and then the full chambers) to allocate $300,000 for a statewide program of pay supplements for early childhood teachers – the first time public funds will be used for that purpose. The funds likely will go to INCENTIVES Early Childhood, administered by the NMAEYC, which has had successful privately funded INCENTIVES programs in Santa Fe County and SW Bernalillo County.
The legislature also increased money for the Training and Technical Assistance Programs by $300,000 and provided $1.3 million to increase child care subsidy rates for infants.
The legislature continued support for T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarships for FY 2015 with state funds of approximately $828,000 plus $250,000 in federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant money – or about $1.08 million – about the same as in FY 2014. T.E.A.C.H. has about $30,000 in private and city funds for scholarships in FY 2015.