Enrollment in pre-K education in New Mexico will grow by 40%, we are told. Taxpayers have been promised more than $110 million in new state early childhood education funding to increase the number of seats for children in pre-K classrooms, increase the number of instructional hours some programs and freeze wages for child workers.
And more broadband connectivity is on the way too. New Mexico has received $40 million in federal grants for rural broadband projects, we learned last week.
But what is the real return on investment for each? Every year, New Mexico school districts turn back between $2 million and $4 million in pre-K funding because the demand isn’t there. And a report by the 2020 Legislative Finance Committee found that none of the nine broadband goals of 2014 were met despite the influx of public funds. LFC analysts say the state and federal governments have funded about $325 million in broadband projects in New Mexico over the past four years but have had difficulty finding the money and securing it. responsibility.
We don’t need to do anything else.
More than $110 million a year in new money before K from a poorly written and voter-approved constitutional amendment to increase the allocation from the Land Grant Permanent Fund. Legislators can throw all the money they want at preschool, but that doesn’t mean the programs will actually succeed. About 15,700 NM children currently have access to pre-K services, bringing in professionals and staff, as well as parental involvement. Early Childhood Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said at a press conference Tuesday that we need 600 to 800 child care providers to increase pre-K access by 40%. But last year the state was asking for volunteers from the National Guard to do child care.
Scholarships that provide financial support to college students pursuing early childhood degrees and increased pay for early childhood education professionals can help, but we have a long way to go. of having a pre-K seat for every child under 5.
And it doesn’t answer the question of whether each family needs a place to stay. As we argued before, there are only about 24,000 4-year-olds in New Mexico. Many are in funded Head Start programs. Many are in private programs that receive funding from the Department of Children, Youth and Families. (Actually, more kids in Farmington and Los Lunas go to Head Start or CYFD pre-K than state pre-K). Many are in programs at churches, homes and private businesses that families can afford. And not every family thinks their child needs more than K.
So Groginsky and the team are critical of where this $110 million goes each year, and how many children it serves.
Meanwhile, the $40 million in federal broadband grants announced last week will fund three projects: Western New Mexico Telephone Company Inc. receive $24 million to provide high-speed Internet to 206 people, five businesses and five farms in Catron County; Peñasco Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. will receive $13.9 million to provide high-speed Internet to 550 people, 11 businesses and 48 farms in Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero counties; and ENMR Telephone Cooperative will receive $2.6 million to provide high-speed Internet to a farm and 27 people in De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Quay, San Miguel, Socorro and Union counties.
As Martin Leahy of Rio Rancho wrote in a letter to the editor on Saturday, the $40 million will fund a little over 850 broadband connections, and nearly $47,000 for that with this bet – the prices for each bet cannot be compared widely. And columnist Robert Trapp of Española added “it’s great if you’re one of those 27 people in eastern New Mexico, but what’s the real cost?”
It also begs the question of whether we should invest in technology that may be obsolete in a few years. The New Mexico Economic Development Department provided $5 million to increase internet access through airports, but that didn’t happen when our congressmen and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held a meeting. press conference in Albuquerque on Monday announcing the federal funding.
EDD finalized a 2021 contract with Moriarty-based Sceye Inc. The “stratospheric platforms” effectively release cell tower equipment. Sceye launched its first 24-hour flight from Roswell last June.
“With five ships floating in the stratosphere, Sceye can expand broadband to 100% of the state,” EDD Secretary Alicia J. Keyes told the Journal in June. “It can provide a more successful option for the future of the high-speed internet than trying to build local businesses in rural areas.” And HAPSMobile Inc. – a joint venture between Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Inc. and the aerospace development company AeroVironment – working at Spaceport America to co-develop wireless space vehicles to provide Internet connectivity from the stratosphere, without mountains or buildings. which means the world.
But we are actually pouring $40 million into the ground for about 850 people. State officials estimate that extending high-speed Internet to rural areas through buried cables will take years and cost more than $5 billion. Partial actions like $2.6 million to get broadband to 28 people are not good and forward thinking.
Vilsack said the broadband million target would come from regular reports and deadlines for specific projects, but the LFC report shows we’ve heard that before.
Money seems to come first, responsibility comes next, if at all. Some state lawmakers agree the state has a long history of throwing money at problems without measurable results.
New Mexico is a big state with big benefits, so it’s important to get money for the money and make every dollar count. A public accounting of the return on investment for pre-K and broadband is critical ahead of time to ensure that millions of dollars actually go where they are intended and improve the lives of New Mexico, before the hands of the people or the bank account.
Because politicians won’t hold a press conference about that.
This editorial originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It is written by members of the editorial board and is not signed because it reflects the opinion of the newspaper rather than the authors.