“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
— Matthew 19:13-14
On June 21, the annual “Kids Count” data book prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation was release containing the data from 2019 the most recent statistics available. The Casey foundation is a nonprofit based in Maryland focusing on improving the well-being and future of American children and their families. State rankings by the nonprofit are based on 16 indicators that measure and track the well-being of children and their families in the domains of economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
The links to the Kids Count Data Book is here:
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the statistics released are for 2019, they do not reflect changes that may be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 KIDS COUNT DATA BOOK ON 2019 STATISTICS
New Mexico’s national child well-being ranking went from 50th to 49th displacing Mississippi, and following Louisiana. New Mexico overall was worse than the U.S. average in most of the categories measured .
Following are New Mexico’s statistics gleaned from the 2021 Kid Count Data Book:
NEW MEXICO RANKING OVERALL: 49th
ECONOMIC WELL BEING FOR CHILDREN New Mexico Ranking: 48TH
25% of New Mexico Children are living in poverty
116,000 children live in poverty
32% of New Mexico children’s have parents that lack secure employment
115,000 children’s parents lack secure employment
11% of New Mexico’s teens are not school and are not working
12,000 teens are not school and are not working
New Mexico Ranking: 50th
76% of New Mexico’s fourth graders are not proficient in reading
79% of New Mexico’s eighth graders are not proficient in reading
25% of New Mexico’s high school students do not graduate on time
New Mexico Ranking: 37th
9.3% low birth weights for children born in New Mexico
2,124 total children born in New Mexico with low birth weights
6% of New Mexico children are without health insurance
29,000 total New Mexico children without health insurance
36 is New Mexico’s child and teen death rates per 100,000
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY
New Mexico Ranking: 48%
44% of New Mexico children live in single parent families or 195,000 children living in single parent families
14% of New Mexico children live in families where the household head lacks a high school education or 69,000 children.
24 is New Mexico’s teen birth rate per 1,000 with 1,659 births
2019 COMPARED TO 2018 KIDS COUNT DATA BOOK
Comparing the 2019 data to the 2018 data, New Mexico’s numbers improved for children in Economic Well-Being” with New Mexico having fewer children living in poverty, fewer children whose parents lack secure employment and fewer teens neither in school nor working.
In the category of Education there were more 8th graders proficient in math and more high school students graduating on time in 2019 than in 2018.
In the category of Family and Community, in 2019 there were fewer children living in families where the head of household lacked a high school diploma, fewer children living in high poverty areas, and a lower teen birth rate per 1,000 births than in 2018.
In 2019, there was no improvement over 2018 in the category of Health. However New Mexico’s national ranking in Health improved from 41st to 37th .
2019, 2018, 2016 KIDS COUNT DATA BOOK COMPARISONS
It was in 2018 that for the first time in five years, New Mexico had fallen to last among states in the categories of Economic, Educational and Medical well-being of its children.
According to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book, 30% of New Mexico’s children were living in poverty in 2016, compared to 19% nationwide that year. In 2019 things have improve slightly by 5% with 25% of New Mexico’s children living in poverty.
In Education the report the 2018 report said 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S. In 2019, New Mexico now has hit rock bottom ranking 50th in the country for Education.
The most troubling in the 2018 Kids Count Data Book was New Mexico’s steep drop in ranking for health care measures. In 2019, things have improved in the Health category with New Mexico ranking 37th .
The 2021 child tax credit was included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law in March. The expanded child tax credit will have a massive effect on New Mexico’s children and their families New Mexico.
Starting July 15, hundreds of dollars will be deposited into family bank accounts The amount of the credit was increased from $2,000 per child under 17 years old to $3,600 per year per child under 6 years old and $3,000 for a child age 6 through 17, according to the IRS. The child tax credit was also changed to include families with no tax liabilities. And families will be able to choose if they want to receive the credit in monthly installments of $300 or $250 per child, depending on their age, or in an annual lump sum payment.
There is a big difference with the tax credits this year. Instead of a single lump sum payment at the end of the tax year, the amount has been broken down into monthly payments so that those paid can better budget their incomes.
New Mexico Voices for Children spokeswoman Sharon Kayne had this to say about the tax credits:
“About 95% of children in the state will benefit from the expanded tax credit … Child poverty really underlies a lot of the other indicators. So kids whose families earn a very low income are less likely to have the resources they need to do well in school, are more likely to lack health insurance, and more likely to have parents who lack a college degree or high school diploma. … [The monthly payments will allow money to be spent in a way that the family deems is best for them.] Most will spend it on food, clothing and other necessities but parents can also get their car fixed so they can get to work or look for a job, or afford better childcare.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
HUNGER AND POVERTY NOT THE ONLY CRISIS FOR NEW MEXICO’S KIDS
In New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners. Further, 14.8 percent of students have disabilities.
10.6% of New Mexico children are Native American and proficiency rates for Native American students in the past 3 years was at 17.6% or 82.4% were not proficient in reading and their math proficiency was at 10.4% or 89% are not proficient in math.
2019 YEAR NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE TACKLE THE PROBLEM
During the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session, the legislature approved an education budget of $3.2 Billion, 16% over last year’s budget, out of the total budget of $7 Billion. Included in the budget was a $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay.
The massive infusion of funding to public education was the result of the 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 were given a major increase in funding. Under the enacted 2019-2020 budget, every public-school district will be allocated significantly more funding. Teachers have not had any raises to speak of for the last 8 years. Teachers and school administrators will be given 6% pay raises with more money to hire teachers.
The new “Early Childhood Department” was created and started work in January 2020. The new department will focuses 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.
2021-2021 BUDGET ENACTED
On March 19, 2021, the legislature enacted a 7.4 billion state. The 2021 New Mexico legislature increased state government spending by 4.8 percent, or $373 million.. Upwards of half of the $7.5 Billion dollar budget goes towards public education. $110-million will be spent to extend the school year by ten days with an additional $120-million for kindergarten to fifth-grade programs to add 25 extra school days to make up for lost learning time.
Part of the budget will be used to increase the governor’s Opportunity Scholarship, which helps provide funding for tuition at two-year universities, to $18-million. An additional $35-million will head towards addressing the needs of Native student’s education.
The 2021 New Mexico legislature also passed House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1) calling for a constitutional amendment to create a permanent fund for early childhood education programs passed the State Senate.
The bill is considered landmark legislation because it creates a permanent fund for early childhood education. The enactment of the Constitutional Amendment has the potential to transform and expand childhood education programs and provide additional support for K-12 across the state. The funding distribution is from New Mexico’s land grant permanent fund. For years, attempts have been made to dip into the state’s permanent fund which is currently valued at upwards $22 billion for early childhood programs. The Constitutional Amendment will be placed on the ballot as a Constitutional Amendment for the voters to decide its enactment.
As enacted HJR 1 would take an additional 1.25% from the Land Grant Permanent Fund and put it towards child education. The proposal would send an additional $127 million a year for early childhood education programs and an extra $85 million a year for Kindergarten to 12-grade schools. Roughly $33 million would also go to other beneficiaries of the Land Grant Permanent Fund, like the New Mexico Military Institute and the School for the Deaf, just to name a couple.
ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
APS has an approved 2020-2021 approved budget of $1.56 billion budget. The budget provided funding for 12,600 full-time jobs. Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of the state’s students and nearly 84,000 students.
The ethnicity of the APS 84,000 students is:
5.5% American Indian
3.2% African American
2.3% Asian American
0.2% are “other”
Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs. There are 29 APS authorized charter schools with 7,100 students attending the charter schools.
APS is among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation and the largest in New Mexico. APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8 th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools.
APS serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program. The school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.
The rankings and financial numbers are depressing and staggering:
New Mexico ranks 50th in education. Despite the millions being spent each year on the state’s public education system, 76% of all New Mexico’s fourth graders are not proficient in reading and 79% of all eighth graders and not proficient in reading. For our native American population it’s even worse with 82.4% were not proficient in reading and their 89% are not proficient in math.
25% of New Mexico’s children are living in poverty, with New Mexico ranking 48th in Economic Well Being.
Child and teen death rates have skyrocketed reflecting 36 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 as opposed to 28 in 2013.
The number of low birthweight babies has increased slightly from 8.9% in 2013 to 9.3% in 2019.
The the number of teens who still are not working and not in school has also increase slightly going from 10% in 2013 to 11% in 2019.
When it is all said and done, and the money spent and long gone, there is no guarantee that New Mexico rankings will get any better when it comes to children living in poverty.
Notwithstanding, Albuquerque and New Mexico, and all of its leaders, have a moral obligation to do something to address poverty, children living in poverty and to protect our most venerable population, its children.
One glimmer of hope the state has would be the passage of the Constitutional Amendment where 1.25% from the Land Grant Permanent Fund would be dedicated and towards child education. If passed by voters, the proposal would send an additional $127 million a year for early childhood education programs and an additional $85 million a year for kindergarten to 12-grade schools.