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eced 1From left: Anita Rios, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and Terry Anderson. (Courtesy Photo)Creation of  New State 'Early Education & Childcare Department,' to Concentrate Improvements in Early Learning and Child Well-Being; Cites Long-Time Grant County Leadership to Create Historic Early Childhood Focus

(Santa Fe, NM) – Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales today praised Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for signing into law Senate Bill 22 on Thursday, establishing a new Cabinet-level state department that will lead a unified expansion and transformation of early childhood education in New Mexico.  Morales also applauded the years of work particularly by Grant County advocates for and practitioners of early childhood education, who pushed the concept of a state agency solely focused on early education and childcare as encapsulated in the measure.  Morales, in response to the Grant County advocates mostly based at Western New Mexico University, sponsored the first bill ever in 2015 to create an early education department in New Mexico.

“I am thrilled today by the signing of SB 22, and Gov. Lujan Grisham has demonstrated great leadership in making this idea of concentrating our resources and efforts or the well-being of our youngest children.  She is an effective champion for working families,’ said Lt. Governor Howie Morales.  “This is the most important turnaround we must and will make as a state in the coming years. 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.”

“Years ago I learned from the committed professionals based at WNMU’s pioneering early childhood programs the pressing need to create such a state-wide agency.  They were my teachers and my mentors on this legislation.  We have made it a reality.  I credit them for getting us to this moment establishing the New Mexico Early Education & Childcare Department.  Families with young children today and in the future owe them an enormous debt,” added Morales.

Surrounded by dozens of legislative leaders, sponsors and child welfare advocates, Gov. Lujan Grisham and Lt. Gov. Morales 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 in 2019 by Sen. Michael Padilla and Rep. Linda Trujillo. 

“The Early Childhood Education and Care Department will provide the field of Early Childhood a shared vision, goals, and alignment of ALL early learning programs for children birth to five.  Under this governance and management, Early Childhood will be supported with a foundational understanding of how to best support the learning, growth, and development children need in order to be ready for academic learning,” Shannon Rivera, Executive Director/Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Programs, Western New Mexico University.

“Governor Lujan Grisham’s action will be a big help to improve the education of young children, and a big help for working families with young children in our communities.  Creating a state department solely committed to making early education and childcare a priority will offer parents more options for affordable, high-quality childcare and Pre-K.  This is essential for the future of New Mexico’ children.  I am proud of Howie Morales’ years of work to arrive at this accomplishment today, and we are grateful to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s bold leadership to make this a reality,” said Anita Rios, a Silver City resident and a Past President of the New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children.

“Today’s creation of a state department to focus on early education and care has been many years in the making, and the work of many people.  This is exactly what we should be doing for the future of New Mexico’s children.  We will not accept being 50th in the nation in child well-being any longer.  Putting all early child programs under on roof will be a huge, positive turn around for children.” Terry Anderson, Executive Director of Community Partnership for Children, and a Past President of the New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children.  Terry resides in Silver City.

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