New Mexico’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department will get $10 million in federal dollars at the end of the calendar year for preschool development. The money will fund everything from the professional development information system to the Pueblo of Jemez language immersion program to engaging more parents.
“The focus of this grant is to really enhance the quality of the early childhood system, birth to 5,” said Elizabeth Groginsky, cabinet secretary for early childhood education. “And a big part of the direction from the federal government was to focus on workforce, and improving and enhancing the opportunities and supports for the workforce, and also for families to be more engaged and have more opportunities to participate in their child’s learning.”
The funding from the Department of Health and Human Services is a second installment of a $30 million three-year preschool development grant. New Mexico received a planning preschool development grant in 2018, and last year the state applied for the $30 million implementation grant. Many of the programs will begin running next year, Groginsky said.
The funding will help update professional competencies for early childhood educators, and early learning standards. It also support nine higher education institutions trying to get accreditation for their teacher preparation programs from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
About $4 million will go toward Head Start programs, helping those that are under-enrolled convert slots in the programs to serve infants instead of toddlers. There will also be a mini-grant for rural school districts to better serve children with disabilities.
“We want to use this opportunity to create some incentives and some innovation for those rural communities to better serve and meet the needs of children with special needs who are enrolled in Head Start classrooms,” Groginsky said.
The Pueblo of Jemez has been doing language immersion to teach students Jemez (Towa) since 2006 and has focused on building it into its education programs from birth to sixth grade, Groginsky said. The Pueblo has partnered with the University of Hawaii to build the program, and $1.5 million in federal funding is meant to build on that work. The money will fund research, professional development and capacity building to help New Mexico support more tribal language immersion programs.
“How can we expand what the University of Hawaii has been able to do here in New Mexico into our higher ed institutions too? ” Groginsky said.
The department also has partnered with Abriendo Puertas and the Partnership for Community Action in Albuquerque.
“They’ll be training parents and building up parent leaders all around the state to advocate not only for their own children, but for all the children that are in the birth to 5 programs and services. So we’re excited to see that get off the ground also this coming year,” Groginsky said.
The program helps educate parents on topics like how to change institutions and how different government jurisdictions operate.
“It’s exciting, because I think families are going to be absolutely essential to us really building a system that is cohesive and equitable and responsive to the unique needs of children,” Groginsky said.
New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced the new grant funding Wednesday.
“I began my own journey as a lifelong learner in the Head Start program. Today, I am grateful that this $10 million Preschool Development Grant will help our state’s children access the same opportunity I had to learn and develop early on,” Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández said in a statement.
Rep. Melanie Stansbury said in a statement that the money will help New Mexicans “achieve their dreams in the future, while opening pathways for parents with young children to pursue their dreams in the present.”