2012 Kids Count Report: NM children have a long road ahead

By Renee Blake

Public News Service – NM

SANTA FE, N.M. – As the state Legislature convenes for 2013, the 2012 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book reveals that things have not advanced a lot when it comes to care and services for the state’s children.

Christine Hollis, New Mexico Kids Count director, sees several areas where many of the state’s young people are falling off track. Among them is preschool, which only boasts 40 percent enrollment, and only about 28 percent of the state’s children have pre-kindergarten or Head Start programs available.

“New Mexico ranks dead last among all the states in the nation in terms of the number of our fourth-graders who can read at a proficient level. And only about two out of every five of our eighth graders are good in math.”

Hollis says these are more than numbers. They represent gateways to unemployment and social problems such as binge drinking and drug abuse. In terms of graduation, more than a third of New Mexico young people do not graduate on time.

With such discouraging numbers, Hollis says a statewide youth, education and employment strategy is needed.

“That can align and involve all the resources from public and private institutions that helps kids from birth all the way up to careers involving not just health and education but also workforce preparation units – and taking more steps with the private sector to promote career pathways for young children.”

Hollis says the release of the New Mexico Kids Count report just before the legislative session is no coincidence. The plan is to emphasize the needs of New Mexico’s children and get state lawmakers to promote policies that will help children and their families.

“One heavy emphasis will be around early childhood care and education.”

New Mexico Voices for Children also will be working with policymakers on Medicaid and health-care reform, taxation and budget issues in order to maintain revenue and resources to benefit New Mexico’s children and their families.

The report is online at nmvoices.org.

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