Early Childhood Education is a Necessity, Not an Option – Generation Justice

Over the past couple of months with Generation Justice, I’ve learned about the incredible importance of early childhood development for New Mexico. For example, Generation Justice hosted a summer institute with workshops focusing on social justice, media analysis, and equity. Here, we had special guest speakers talk about community organizing and journalism. But if there was one workshop that really stood out in my mind it was the “Little Feet Walk Loud” workshop.

The focus of this workshop is on children’s early brain development and how little money is being invested in quality early childhood programs. Children start learning at a much earlier age than we think. The brain is nearly developed for a child before they reach age five. What they learn and interact with during this time will frame how that child performs in school in the future. So, if New Mexican children don’t get the quality, affordable pre-school education they deserve, they’re less likely to succeed in school down the road, which also has major impacts on our state’s economy as a whole.

Our state is second to last for being the worst education system in the country, and this crisis is one that begins early at an early age and is connected to the lack of quality early education programs.

Only two-thirds of New Mexico high school students graduate from high school. But what’s to happen to the remaining one-third of students who dropped out? Someone who doesn’t have a high school diploma will gross about twenty-thousand annually, compared to someone with a high school diploma who would make an additional ten-thousand more annually. It may not seem like a whole lot, but it’s something that can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

For those who decide to pursue their higher education they would make double that of someone without a high school degree. By not investing more into early childhood education programs, New Mexico is letting it’s children down.

Like most things, early childhood education programs always face the issue of money. How do we finance these programs with a very tight New Mexico fiscal budget?

For example, recalling the “Little Feet Walk Loud” workshop, the amount of funding from the New Mexico 2012 fiscal budget for Early Childhood Education (ECE) was less than two-percent out of the whole $5.4 billion dollar budget.

It’s demoralizing to know that a very small crumb of funding is being allocated to our children’s early education, especially because it’s such an important phase of their development. If we continue neglecting our children, New Mexico will face serious repercussions moving forward.

To listen to Generation Justice’s show on early childhood development and The Wonder of Learning exhibit, click here.

(photo credit: GAN/Flickr)