2024 Kids Count Data Book Ranks New Mexico 50th In Education, 48th In Economic Well-Being, 44th In Health And 49th In Family And Community; 2024 Rankings Identical To 2023 Rankings; Allegation of Racism In Rankings In Reality Is Failed Leadership Given State’s Financial Commitment to Kids

“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 11 the New Mexico Voices for Children released the “2024 Kids Count Data Book, State Trends In Child Well Being.” The annual “Kids Count” Data Book is prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Casey foundation is a nonprofit based in Maryland focusing on improving the well-being and future of American children and their families. It assesses how New Mexico children are faring in a number of areas including economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

The link to the 2024 Kids Count Data Book is here:



The 35th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book report contains a summary of National Trends in Child wellbeing.  The study confirmed that nationally, there was an unprecedented decline in student math and reading proficiency brought on by the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on education.  Between 2019 and 2022, fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math scores plummeted, representing decades of lost progress. The trend underscores the urgent need for action to address the growing academic disparities among U.S. students.

The summary states in part:

“Today’s students, who will comprise America’s future workforce, are ill-prepared for the high-level reading, math and problem-solving skills required in a competitive global economy. The failure to adequately prepare our children will have dire consequences for their futures and for the economic vitality of our nation.

In 2022, as COVID-19 restrictions eased, the impact of the pandemic on child well-being became evident. Six indicators worsened between 2019 and 2022, including educational achievement and the child and teen death rate. Between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of children scoring proficient or above in reading and math declined sharply. While this trend may have stabilized in 2022, the data indicate a significant setback in educational attainment. The child and teen death rate also remained elevated in 2022, with 17.0 deaths per 100,000 children and adolescents, compared to 14.7 in 2019.”

However, some positive trends emerged:

  • Parents’ economic security improved significantly, with 62.4% of children living in economically secure homes in 2022, compared to 58.4% in 2021.
  • The child poverty rate decreased from 17.2% in 2021 to 15.9% in 2022, returning to pre-pandemic levels.”


Positive trends were also observed in the family and community domains. Fewer children lived with parents lacking a high school diploma, and the number of children living in high-poverty communities decreased. The teen birth rate reached a record low in 2021 and remained stable in 2022 at 14 births per 1,000 teen females.

These positive changes demonstrate how effective policies that address the root causes of challenges can contribute to significant improvements and create a brighter future for young people.


“Racial inequities in America persist, with American Indian/Alaska Native, Black and Latino children facing significant disparities. Nearly all well-being indicators show disparate outcomes by race and ethnicity, with American Indian/Alaska Native children and Black children experiencing the lowest well-being levels.

Generations of inequity and discrimination contribute to these disparities. Black children have higher rates of single-parent households and poverty, while American Indian/Alaska Native children are more likely to lack health insurance and live in resource-limited neighborhoods. Latino children have higher rates of obesity and live in households where the head may lack a high school diploma.

And despite overall better outcomes for Asian and Pacific Islander children, disaggregated data reveal significant disparities within this population. Burmese, Mongolian and Thai children experience higher rates of poverty and lack of high school diplomas in their households. Today, children of color constitute the majority of the nation’s children, highlighting the importance of ensuring their success for the future of America.”


The 2024 Kids Count Data Book contains an astonishing number of  depressing statistics for New Mexico’s children as they relate to overall  child well-being,  education, health and economic well-being. In 2024, out of all 50 states, New Mexico ranked 50th in overall childhood well-being, ranked 50th in education, ranked 48th in economic well-being, ranked 44th in health and ranked 49th in family and community. Forty-one percent of New Mexico students between 2021 and 2022 were chronically absent.

The 2024 Kids Count Data Book statistics are essentially identical to the 2023 Kids Count Data Book statistics with a 1% decrease in Family and Community.  The statistics for both years for comparison are:

In 2024, New Mexico ranked 50th in EDUCATION and in 2023 New Mexico also ranked 5Oth in EDUCATION.

In 2024 New Mexico ranked 48th in ECONOMIC WELL-BEING and in 2023 New Mexico ranked 49th in ECONOMIC WELL-BEING RANKING.

In 2024, New Mexico ranked 49th in FAMILY AND COMMUNITY and in 2023 New Mexico ranked 48th in FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.

In 2024 New Mexico ranked 44th in HEALTH RANKINGS and in 2023  New Mexico ranked 44th in HEALTH RANKINGS.

The link to the 2023 Kids Count Data Book is here:

Click to access aecf-2023kidscountdatabook-2023.pdf

The link to review New Mexico’s 2024 Kids Count Data profile page giving the state the overall ranking of 50 and the statistics in the categories of Economic Well Being, Education, Health, and Family and Communication is here:

Click to access 2024-KCDB-profile-NM.pdf

Maralyn Beck, founder and executive director of New Mexico Child First Network, which aims to improve foster care in the state said this about the statistics:

“Our kids are not OK. … Solutions exist to do better, but we need political will and political courage to push forward solutions that we know will improve outcomes for our children.”

Beck said that children in foster care also have lower educational outcomes and are at the “highest risk.” Beck said the Kids Count Data book highlights the average New Mexican student but does not fully address kids in foster care who are even more vulnerable. Beck said this:

“The kids I’m working with are the most vulnerable. … Kids in foster care have the lowest education outcomes. One in 7 kids will graduate from high school. One in 50 will graduate from college.”


Across 2021 and 2022, one in two New Mexico children experienced an adverse childhood experience (ACE) defined as “a traumatic experience that could include abuse, neglect or witnessing domestic violence.” New Mexico tied with Mississippi for the highest rate of kids who had experienced such trauma.

George Davis, a child psychologist who has worked with the state Children, Youth and Families Department and children in the juvenile justice system, said Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), can disrupt normal child development. Davis said children who are separated from their parents, for example, may later show struggles with self-regulation through aggression, trusting adults, trouble making friends and even challenges sitting still or paying attention in school. Davis said this:

“It undermines the foundations that you need to progress in life in very fundamental kinds of ways.”

Davis said poverty alone is not ACE, but it can be associated with other traumatic experiences. The state has made some improvements in the childhood poverty rate, the report noted, but it still remained at about 24% in 2022, 8% higher than the national rate.

Davis said that addressing statewide gaps in health care and substance abuse treatment, as well as poverty, is needed to prevent ACE. Although Davis said he sees a political interest in preventing childhood trauma, the next steps may seem unclear. Davis said this:

“I think people don’t know what to do at the state level. … But I think there definitely is the will.”


According to the 2024 Kids Count Data Book, New Mexico ranks 48th with children living in poverty. A November 17, 2023 report prepared by the Legislative Education Study Committee found that nearly 40% of students were chronically absent from school in New Mexico during the 2022-23 school year. The number is slightly less than the previous year, but it’s still a major concern for educators and lawmakers who say children can’t learn if they aren’t in class. According to the report nearly 60.8% of students who are experiencing housing insecurity are also chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism is defined in New Mexico state law as missing 10% or more of classes or school days for any reason, whether excused or unexcused.


New Mexico Appleseed is an organization focused on reducing child poverty.  Jennifer Ramo, founder of New Mexico Appleseed, said homelessness can compound some of the issues raised in the Kids Count Data Book report. Ramo said transportation can be difficult for children who are homeless contributing to absenteeism.  Even if kids make it into the classroom, those factors can make it difficult to learn. Ramo said this:

“The teacher and the students, they’re both outgunned by poverty.  … In general, I don’t know how you can expect these kids to learn and be ready emotionally, and be focused, when maybe they haven’t eaten or they were sleeping on the floor or they have four people in their bed.”

Ramo said basic guaranteed income is something New Mexico Appleseed is pushing for as well as a statewide program to pay kids to show up to school.  Ramo said this:

“Most families are working and trying to get multiple jobs, and it’s still not adding up. … They still are not meeting the cost of living. … We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

A test program in two school districts in northern New Mexico paid students $500 per month if they attended tutoring, attended school 90% of the time and attended one socio-emotional meeting. The program worked. Ramo said this:

“They did it. … It’s a pretty profound impact. Between both districts, it was 93% [graduation rate for the participants].”


New Mexico Appleseed is an organization focused on reducing child poverty.  Jennifer Ramo, founder of New Mexico Appleseed, said every time the Kids Count report comes out, her heart sinks. Romo said she’d like to see the ranking system come to an end, especially with the state’s “economic reality.”  Romo said the ranking system does not suggest ways to grow.  Romos said this:

“We just get told, once again, how terrible we are, and there’s actually some pretty amazing work happening in New Mexico that we can scale and replicate. … It isn’t that we should ignore the data. We definitely need data, and we need to understand the problems. But I think that solution-oriented data is much more effective.”

NMCAN works with young people impacted by homelessness, foster care and the juvenile justice system.  Lorilynn Violanta, co-executive director of NMCAN, said they are people with “complex needs” and include young people and families the organization works with who often experience problems accessing available services. The Kids Count Data Book does not take into account fully accessibility to services those impacted by homelessness, foster care and the juvenile justice system.

Violanta described the problem this way:

“When I talk about the accessibility, I mean it in all different components. … Not only is the process easy to access, but then, when the family or the young person is accessing resources, how do we still meet them where they are, with the dignity they deserve? … Sometimes programs, as well-intentioned as they are, aren’t necessarily responding to the needs and the realities of young people and families.”

Gabrielle Uballez, the executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, noted the Kids Count data is a couple of years behind and not reflective of what has happened over the last few years.  Uballez said the dataset includes several pandemic-era years and the effect of recent major investments may not be visible in the data for years to come. Uballez pointed to the creation of the Early Childhood Education and Care Department by Governor Lujan Grisham  which officially launched in summer 2020, and a 2022 voter-approved constitutional amendment to increase spending on early childhood education. Uballez said this:

“We should continue to make those investments. … Even though the results aren’t showing up this year or next year, we have a lot of faith that they will show up over the long term. So we should not be discouraged.”



During the last 6 years, the New Mexico legislature has been very aggressive when it comes to increased funding to turn things around for New Mexico’s children when it comes to education and their wellbeing. Much of the legislatures efforts  have been a direct result of the 2018 landmark education case of Yazzie-Martinez v. New Mexico Public Education Department  where a  First Judicial District Court ruled the State of New Mexico violated students’ fundamental rights by failing to provide a sufficient public education mandated by the state constitution.  The court found that New Mexico students have a right to be college-and career-ready, a standard that was not being met by New Mexico’s education system. To address this, the state was ordered to take immediate action and establish an educational system that ensures at-risk students in New Mexico will be college and career ready.

In the summer of 2022, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) released updates on the progress made in response to the Yazzie-Martinez ruling. The report highlights various initiatives undertaken by the state, including increased funding, expanded access to pre-kindergarten programs, and targeted support for struggling schools.

“According to the report, the state’s spending on public education has received a substantial boost. In fiscal year 2018, New Mexico’s education system was funded at the tune of $2.69 billion; in fiscal year 2024, the education system is being funded at $4.17 billion. That is an increase of $1.3 billion over five years. State funds have been channeled toward reducing class sizes, hiring additional teachers, improving professional development programs, and enhancing resources for English language learners and special education students.”

In fiscal year 2019, public education funding spiked. The biggest accomplishments of the 2019 Legislative session were the dramatic increases in public education funding, creation of the Early Childhood Department (CYFD), the mandates to Children, Youth and Families and Public Education departments, not to mention raises for educators and increasing CYFD social workers by 125 were clearly the biggest accomplishments of the 2019 Legislative session.

Funding spiked in 2019  and was up to $306 million, including the following:

  • $64 million for Pre-K to better prepare children for elementary school.
  • $45 million for family, infant, toddler programs to help families with children with developmental delays.
  • $30 million for K-3 Plus to add 25 days to the school year.

New Mexico is 1 of just 4 states with a stand-alone department dedicated to services targeting children through age 5. The initial operating budget for the new department was $419 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The new department is tasked with overseeing the state’s growing investment in prekindergarten, home visiting programs for new parents, childcare and similar services that previously were scattered across several departments. One of the key goals is to better coordinate the state’s network of early childhood services by housing them in one department rather than having them overseen separately by other departments.

In 2020 the New Mexico Legislature created a $320 million early childhood education trust fund. In 2021, lawmakers and the governor agreed to up the spending on early childhood programs to $500 million.


During the 2022 New Mexico Legislative session, a trio of bills were enacted to fund programs to help Native American students succeed in school. The house bills provided more than $70 million to tribal entities to help offer culturally relevant lesson plans and access to virtual and after-school programs for those students.

The first bill appropriated $20 million from the state’s general fund to the Indian Education Act to be used to create culturally relevant learning programs, including Native language programs, for students in the K-12 system.

A second bill appropriated $21.5 million to help tribal education departments develop learning plans and programs for students, extend learning opportunities and support tribal school libraries.

The third bill was aimed at higher education and  appropriated $29.6 million to four state colleges and three tribal colleges for 53 initiatives.

In 2022, voters approved tapping the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for roughly another $240 million annually for early childhood education and K-12 schools. The additional distribution of funding from the Permanent Land Grant Fund goes into effect on July 1. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department recently reported it will experience a 68% increase in funding for Fiscal Year 2024.

The link to news source on funding is here:



The enacted 2023-2024 New Mexico State budget contains major expenditures for  education and child wellbeing.  Those expenditures include:

  • $220.1 Million for extended in-classroom learning time by increasing the number of minimum instructional hours per year in public schools.
  • $30 Million to provide healthy universal school meals and to eliminate school meal costs for every New Mexico child.
  • 2.9 Million to the Children, Youth and Families Department for 60 new protective services staff, to be supported by additional federal matching funds.
  • $277.3 Million for continued investments in affordable, high-quality child care.
  • $131 Million to maintain and expand access to high-quality pre-k education.
  • $40.4 Million for the continued expansion of early childhood home visiting.
  • $111.1 Million to provide a four percent salary increase for all school personnel.
  • $157.4 Million for the Opportunity Scholarship program

 Links to quoted news source material are here:





On February 12, 2024, the 2024-2025 Fiscal Year state budget was passed by the New Mexico Legislature. It contains  a 6.5% increase in recurring funds from last year’s  2023-2024 fiscal year.  The largest slice of the general fund goes to public schools, which are slated to receive about $4.3 billion for the fiscal year. That includes more than $94 million to give a flat 3% raise to all public-school employees, an amount that was trimmed by a Senate Finance Committee. Before public school employees were looking at a total average of 4% raises.  The final version the budget approved by the Senate includes $30 million for summer reading intervention programs, $14 million for early literacy and reading support and $5 million to train secondary educators in the science of reading.


The nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico  Voices for Children manages the state’s Kids Count Data Book  program. The organization issued the following statement in reaction to the 2024 Kids Count Rankings:

New Mexico’s ranking in the education domain is heavily impacted by national standardized test scores. . . These scores do not reflect the ability of our children, but rather an education system that is not designed with our multicultural, multilingual students in mind. New Mexico K-12 students of color and those who are Native American, from low-income families, and who have disabilities tend to not fare as well as their white, more affluent peers, largely as a result of generations of underfunding the education system and a lack of culturally responsive instruction and support. 

Institutionalized and systemic racism exacerbate inequities in child well-being, which are demonstrated in many of the KIDS COUNT indicators. Bottom-ranked states in the Data Book tend to have higher populations of children of color, highlighting that programs and systems are not designed to support them. 


On June 13, New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan reported major pushback to the racism charge by New Mexico  Voices for Children  to the Kids Count Data Book rankings and reported as follows:

Maralyn Beck, director of the foster care group NM Child First Network, came with this reaction to the racism charge made by New Mexico  Voices for Children:

“It’s absolutely poor leadership. We are well past excuses. To be in a position of leadership and authority, and be recognized as the authority on the well-being of our kids and to say stuff like this should be a fireable excuse. As long as we listen to authority figures who say it’s OK to be last, we will remain last.”

Republican State Senator Crystal Brantley, who has been watch dogging state childhood programs, said this:

“As long as we give power, credibility, and an audience to leaders who justify the state’s failure to care for our children, we will remain last in the nation. We have ample opportunities to improve, but Democratic leaders seem to just accept this moral failure as an immutable fact of life and an inevitability given our state’s poverty. But we are not a poor state, nor are we helpless. We must demand more from our leaders or vote to change directions this November.”

Santa Fe radio talk show host and self-described “liberal Democrat” Richard Eeds said this:

“I don’t agree with this apologetic and excuse perspective and I never have. Every time they say that “we are working on improvements” and “just give us more time,” I always want to ask don’t you think the other 49 states continue towards improvement too? Or do you think that they just stop trying to help their kids improve outcomes after their 49th? There is no plan. It’s a pure stall.”



After a full 6 years of millions spent each year on the state education programs and departments created, it difficult to accept the  excuses given as to why New Mexico has not improved in the annual Kids Count Data Book. If anything, the ratings are getting worse.

The excuses that there is institutionalized and systemic racism exacerbating  inequities in child well-being” in New Mexico and that  “New Mexico’s ranking in the education domain is heavily impacted by national standardized test scoresring very hollow.  They  are offensive and a reflection of cowardness by public education leaders to take responsibility for what is happening and its mismanagement. It’s a failure to hold people accountable  for failing our kids.  How much more time and more funding will it take to turn things around? No one knows for sure but blaming racism  and not holding people responsible just does not cut it.

Links to related blog articles on the annual Kids Count Data Book are here:





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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.