Santa Fe, N.M. - Tonight, the House passed legislation to let the voters of New Mexico decide if the state should make a major investment in early childhood education to address the crime and poverty in our state. House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Representatives Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) and Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D-Albuquerque), would increase by 1% the annual distribution of the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) for investment in early childhood education.

"New Mexicans deserve the opportunity to have a say in the future of their families and their state. Polls show that 80% of voters support this resolution to invest in our kids and our future," said Rep. Maestas. "According to Dr. James J. Heckman of the University of Chicago, the rate of return on investment in early childhood education is a whopping 13% annually. Children who benefit from early childhood programs have significantly better life outcomes in education, health, social behavior, and employment. They are more likely to graduate from high school and college and they are less likely to be involved in crime. It is a moral imperative that we invest in early childhood education now."

New Mexico has the third largest Land Grant Permanent Fund in the nation and the second lowest reading scores in the nation. The increased distribution of 1% would still allow the Fund to grow around 5% a year.

"This legislation not only creates 4,000 new early childhood careers, but it also allows our working parents to go back to their jobs or to get an education while their children are enjoying the benefits of early childhood programs," said Rep. Martinez. "Investing in early education will ensure that all of our kids have the knowledge and skills they need for a 21st Century economy."

The Early Childhood Education constitutional amendment passed the House by a vote of 37 to 32. Rep. Jim Trujillo (D-Santa Fe), who has been ill, returned to the House Chamber tonight to vote for this legislation that he has long championed.

Currently, 95% of children ages 3 and under in New Mexico don't have access to critical services, such as home visiting. Home visiting and other early childhood education services improve child wellbeing, readiness to learn, and other social outcomes. Children who have access to early childhood education services are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and have higher income earning potential.

HJR1 now moves to the Senate. It proposes an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution, which would require voter approval on the 2018 ballot.