New Mexico has a real opportunity to get our children excited about learning at a very young age by properly funding early childhood programs. Simply by investing a very small portion of the state’s permanent land grant fund, this can become a reality.
In this year’s legislative session there were two bills making their way through the Legislature (HJR 15 and SJR9) that could have positively altered the face of New Mexico for decades. These bills would not only have had the impact of getting our children off on the right foot for the rest of their lives, but would have also had a lasting effect on our economy.
This legislation would have pumped hundreds of millions of desperately needed new dollars into the struggling New Mexico economy over the next decade. In addition, the return on investment for high quality early childhood programs has conservatively been estimated by the Nobel Prize winning economist from the University of Chicago, Dr. James Heckman, to be 10 percent per year, per child for the rest of that child’s life.
Creating jobs for decades
The key objective of this legislation is to take a portion of New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund and commit it solely to high-quality early-childhood programs across the state. The fund itself will not shrink, only grow at a less rapid rate. The return on investment, however, will be enormous and have multiple positive benefits.
In addition, this legislation has a sunset clause after 10 years as well as multiple safeguards and mechanisms to stop this initiative if it is not achieving its objectives. This is good government and something that all business people should fully embrace.
As a business owner, I’ve supported numerous economic development initiatives funded by the state. Some have proven successful and others have been complete failures. Many of these programs have focused on tax breaks for large out-of-state corporations that promise new jobs. Unfortunately, the jobs never seem to materialize in the numbers promised and often don’t last more than a few years.
This legislation will create jobs for decades, because we will begin to truly develop a quality workforce from the earliest opportunity, which will ultimately help New Mexico become significantly more competitive when it comes to recruitment of new business. Companies are looking for the best and the brightest workforce, and this legislation will develop such a workforce across New Mexico, not for the short run, but for generations.
Other positive residual effects of this legislation will be reduced dropout rates, increased earning potential for future generations, reduced crime and many others community benefits.
Governor Martinez and the Democratic legislature should work together in a bipartisan fashion to make this a reality as soon as possible.
Michael Padilla is running for state senator in District 14. He grew up in Bernalillo County’s South Valley and is a father and a small business owner.