The Kids Count Data Book is published annually from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks the status of children in the United States. The 30th edition of the report was released on June 17, 2019. The report found that 18% of the nation’s children live in poverty, down from the 10 year Great Recession. However, according to the report: “The nation’s racial inequities remain deep, systemic and stubbornly persistent” and advances were not seen in the Southwest, where many children are Native Americans, Latinos and immigrants who have long faced disadvantages. You can read a summary of the report at the below link.
According to the report, the good news is that of the 16 areas of child well-being tracked across the four domains of health, education, family and community and economic well-being, 11 have improved since the foundation published its first Kids Count Data Book 30 editions ago. According to the report:
“The data reveal, in the United States today, more parents are financially stable and living without burdensome housing costs. More teens are graduating from high school and delaying parenthood. And access to children’s health insurance has increased compared to just seven years ago. But it is not all good news. The risk of babies being born at a low weight continues to rise, racial inequities remain systemic and stubbornly persistent and 12% of kids across the country are still growing up in areas of concentrated poverty.”
According to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book, the five states with the lowest rankings for child well-being, 46-50, are the states of Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
The five states with the best ranking for child-well being, 1-5 are the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey.
NEW MEXICO RANKS DEAD LAST THIRD YEAR IN A ROW
Notwithstanding the good new nationally, for the third time in seven years, New Mexico came in dead last out of 50 states for child well-being. The state was ranked 50th in 2016, again in 2017 and now in 2018 continuing in to this year. According to the study, Louisiana was ranked 49th this year, bumping Mississippi up to 48th. Not at all surprising, it is New Mexico’s widespread poverty and lagging education among Native American and rural Hispanics that brings down the state’s overall rankings.
The Kids Count Data Book rankings are based on 16 indicators under four major domains:
1. Economic well-being
3. Health and
4. Family and community.
ECONOMIC WELL BEING
Under the rating category for economic well-being indicators, the statistics break down as follows:
27% of New Mexico children are living in poverty which was a 3% improvement from last year
28% of New Mexico children live in homes where an unusually large portion of family income goes toward housing costs, a 4% percentage point improvement.
36% of New Mexico children live in homes where parents lack secure employment which is virtually the same from last year.
10% of teens are neither working nor attending school, up 1% point from the previous year.
Under education indicators, not much has changed from last year. The following statistics were reported:
56% of young children are not in school, a 1% point improvement.
75% of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, unchanged from the previous year.
80% of eighth graders are not proficient in math, unchanged from the previous year.
29% of high school students do not graduate on time, unchanged from the previous year.
Under health indicators, the following statistics were reported:
9.5% of babies are born with low birth weight, a half percentage point worse than last year.
5% of children have no health insurance, unchanged from the previous year.
There are 32 child and teen deaths per 100,000 which is a 1 percentage point improvement.
6% of teens report abusing drugs or alcohol, a 1 percentage point improvement.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY INDICATORS
Under Family and Community Indicators the following statistics were reported:
45% of children live in single-parent families, a 3% increase from last year.
16% of children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, a 2% increase from last year.
24% of children live in homes in high poverty areas of the state, 2% worse than last year.
28 babies are born to teens per 1,000 births, a 2% point improvement over last year.
REACTION TO THE 2019 KIDS COUNT DATA BOOK REPORT
Amber Wallin, deputy director for New Mexico Voices for Children, had this to say about the 2019 Kids Count Data Book report:
“We made some real strides toward increasing our investments in children during the 2019 legislative session. … However, it takes some time before improvements in public policy show up in measurable changes to child well-being. Our ranking is also dependent upon how well other states are doing, and most states made the kinds of investments during the recession that led to quicker, more robust recoveries than New Mexico … .”
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which runs the state’s Kids Count program, had this to say about this years report:
“It’s disappointing, but not terribly surprising to see New Mexico ranked at the bottom again, given the last 10 years [meaning the great recession] It is going to take sustained investment to undo the damage from a decade of under-funding all of our child-serving programs and services like health care, child care and K-12 education. … We started making progress in 2019, but clearly much more needs to be done”
EDUCATION BUDGET ENACTMENT
On March 15, 2019, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham finished her very first 60-day Legislative session as Governor. By all accounts, it was one of the most productive sessions in a long time when it comes to the future well being of New Mexico children.
Financial stress over the budget process was greatly reduced from years past by a nearly $2 Billion in additional revenue generated by the Southern New Mexico oil boom and increased royalties filling the state coffers. The 2019 Legislature enacted over a $7 billion state budget, the largest budget ever enacted in state history. The legislature appropriated a total education budget at a whopping $3.2 Billion, 16% over last year’s budget, out of the total budget of $7 Billion.
Included in the budget is a $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay. The massive infusion of funding to public education is the result of a District Court ruling that ruled the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The District Court found that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.
Early childhood programs will be given a major increase in funding. Under the enacted 2019-2020 budget, every public-school district will be allocated significantly more funding. Teachers and school administrators will be given 6% pay raises or more with more money to hire more teachers.
DEPARTMENT OF EARLY CHILDHOOD
A new “Early Childhood Department” was created by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature starting in January 2020. This was a major priority of Governor Lujan Grisham. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.
Albuquerque and New Mexico for the last 4 years have been shocked and haunted with the news of the tragic and brutal killing of children by their own parents. Media reports all too often have included reports where those children had fallen through the cracks of law enforcement and the New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department. Lujan Grisham’s recommendation calls for an additional $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department. Under the enacted budget, 102 new social workers are to be hired by the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division.
NEW MEXICO UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN
In April 2019 17, 2019, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions reported that New Mexico’s adjusted unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, down from 5.1 percent in March 2019. The national unemployment rate in April was 3.6 percent, down from 3.8 percent in March 2019 and 3.9 percent in April 2018.
The economic update for May 17, 2019 from Workforce Solutions States:
“The total non agricultural payroll employment grew by 13,000 jobs, or 1.5 percent, between April 2018 and April 2019. All aggregate gains came from the private sector, which was up 13,800 jobs, or 2.1 percent. The public sector was down 800 jobs, or 0.4 percent. Growth was reported in both components of the private sector. The private service-providing industries were up 8,000 jobs, or 1.4 percent, while the goods-producing industries were up 5,800 jobs, representing a gain of 5.9 percent. Six private industries added jobs, two lost jobs, and one reported employment that was unchanged from its April 2018 level.
Mining and construction reported the largest employment increase with a gain of 5,500 jobs, or 7.7 percent. Within mining and construction, mining added 3,000 jobs, which represented over-the-year growth of 12.4 percent. Construction was up 2,500 jobs, or 5.3 percent. Leisure and hospitality employment increased by 4,600 jobs, or 4.7 percent. Employment in education and health services increased by 3,100 jobs, or 2.2 percent. Most growth in the industry occurred within health care and social assistance, which was up 2,500 jobs, or 2.1 percent; educational services employment was up 600 jobs, or 2.9 percent. Professional and business services employment was up 1,200 jobs, or 1.1 percent. Employment in miscellaneous other services increased by 600 jobs, or 2.1 percent. Aggregate manufacturing employment was up 300 jobs, or 1.1 percent, from its April 2018 level. Within this industry, durable goods manufacturing was up 200 jobs, or 1.3 percent, and non-durable goods manufacturing was up 100 jobs, or 0.9 percent.
Trade, transportation, and utilities was down 1,300 jobs, or 1.0 percent. Within the industry, employment in each of wholesale trade (down 3.8 percent) and retail trade (down 0.9 percent) decreased by 800 jobs; transportation, warehousing, and utilities reported a gain of 300 jobs, or 1.2 percent. Employment in information was down 200 jobs, or 1.7 percent. Employment in financial activities was unchanged from its level in April 2018.
Within the public sector, local government employment grew by 1,000 jobs, or 1.0 percent, with all gains coming from local government excluding education. Federal government reported a gain of 100 jobs, or 0.3 percent. State government employment decreased by 1,900 jobs, or 3.3 percent. Within state government, state government excluding education was up 300 jobs, or 1.0 percent, with state government education posting a loss of 2,200 jobs, or 8.3 percent.”
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB CREATION
According to the Governor’s executive 2019-2020 budget summary, “in order to tackle high poverty rates, spur robust job creation, and put an end to the brain drain” the budget includes significant investments in the areas of employer recruitment and retention with emphasis on the following expanding sectors:
1. The Film and television industry
2. Intelligent manufacturing
3. Sustainable and green energy
4. Cybersecurity aerospace
5. Sustainable and value-added agriculture bioscience
6. Tourism in relation to our outdoor economy
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is very difficult to read, let alone accept, that New Mexico ranks dead last the third year in a row for child well-being. With that in mind, the state now has only one direction to go now and that is up when it comes to the welfare of our children.
There is a direct correlation between a family’s overall income and child well being. When employment rates go up, child well being also goes up. Both the City of Albuquerque’s and the State of New Mexico’s Economic Development Departments need to pay far more attention to the growth industries if the city and the state are going to continue turning our economy around.
With NBC Universal coming to Albuquerque and the purchase of Albuquerque Studios by Netflix, the film industry is clearly in the future of Albuquerque and the best hope at this point in diversifying our economy. Last year alone, the film and TV production industry brought in over $180 million of direct spending to the city and state. Far more important, jobs that will be provided by both NBC Universal and NETFLEX are a far cry from the hourly wage jobs provided by the “call centers” that the city has become accustomed to being announced.
Albuquerque and New Mexico need to pursue with a vengeance the real growth industry like heath care, transportation and manufacturing, and the film industry to diversify our economy. Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed. Special emphasis and support should be given to Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs.
The City and the State need to continue with efforts that will insure that our education institutions such as the New Mexico Community College continue to offer a trained work force. Both the City and the State need to create more incentives to build and guarantee that the growth industries continue to prosper in New Mexico.
The 16% increase in the education budget, the creation of the Department of Early Childhood, the $36.5 million increase for the understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department which includes funding for 102 new social workers for the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division, and the decline in New Mexico’s unemployment rate, reflects that progress is indeed being made towards improving the future of New Mexico’s Children.
Notwithstanding, it will take time before New Mexico’s child well being ranking are made better. For that reason, the debate over using a small portion of the state’s $17 billion Land Grant Permanent fund for early childhood education, care and intervention needs to continue. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham should continue her efforts to give major attention to use of the State’s Land Grant and Permanent Fund to finally solve many of our early childhood education, care and intervention problems.