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Heinrich, Stansbury, Luján, Leger Fernández Introduce Legislation To Authorize Investments In Early Childhood, K-12 Education

WASHINGTON (Dec. 15, 2021) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) introduced bicameral legislation to provide federal approval for the State of New Mexico’s proposal to invest Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) dollars into early childhood education, as approved by the Legislature earlier this year. U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) are original cosponsors. 

In March 2021, the New Mexico Legislature passed House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR1), a historic resolution that will propose a constitutional amendment to the voters to invest the state’s permanent funds in early childhood education programs throughout the state. This change to the state’s constitution requires proposed authorization from Congress and approval from New Mexico voters, likely to be on the ballot in the November 2022 election.

The New Mexico Education Enhancement Act serves as the mechanism to grant the required federal approval needed for New Mexico to advance on its goals.

“Too many children in New Mexico are showing up to kindergarten so far behind their classmates that they can’t catch up. We need to level the playing field for our kids—especially in their earliest years—if we want to set all of them up with a strong foundation for long-term academic and career success,” said Heinrich. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to provide Congressional consent to allow New Mexico to tap into our Land Grant Permanent Fund so we can provide high-quality early childhood education for all of our kids.”

“Investing in our kids and their education, is an investment in our future. Investing in early childhood education and care is one of the best investments we can make in our families, our economy, and the well-being of our communities,” said Stansbury. “That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Heinrich and our delegation to introduce a bill to empower New Mexico to invest in our early childhood education system. Combined with the universal pre-K investments in the Build Back Better Act, New Mexico’s plan to use the Land Grant Permanent Fund to invest in early education will create one of the best-funded early education systems in the country. I was proud to stand with our kids, our educators, and our families in New Mexico in passing this legislation in the state legislature earlier this year, and I am deeply proud to introduce this legislation in Congress today to ensure a brighter future for our state.”

“This legislation is instrumental in providing New Mexico’s children, students, and teachers with permanent and sustainable funds for early childhood education,” said Luján. “It will be the single most important investment we can make in our children and their educators in New Mexico, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to act on this critical legislation to transform early childhood and K-12 education in my state.” 

“Thank you, Congresswoman Stansbury and Senator Heinrich, for introducing this legislation and for the entire coalition behind New Mexico’s constitutional amendment. We are at an important moment. Next year, New Mexicans have the opportunity to make their voices heard at the polls and invest in the future of our children,” said Leger Fernández. “I look forward to helping champion the passage of this bill that will incorporate this historic amendment into the New Mexico constitution. When we invest in our children, we invest in our future.”

New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund is derived from revenues generated on 13 million acres of land granted by the United States to the Territory of New Mexico under the Ferguson Act of 1898 and the Enabling Act of 1910 after New Mexico was incorporated into the U.S. after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Since that time, the fund has grown through royalties from natural resources development and returns on invested capital. As of September 30, 2021, the Land Grant Permanent Fund was valued at $24.5 billion, with 5 percent of earnings distributed annually to New Mexico’s public schools.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allocate an additional 1.25% annual distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund, with 60 percent of the additional allocation directed to early childhood education — estimated to be about $126.9 million per year — and 40% to public education. The total additional distribution would be an estimated $245.7 million each year for New Mexico’s children.

Senators Heinrich and Luján and Representatives Stansbury and Leger Fernández are also backing the Build Back Better Act, which will make access to high-quality universal preschool a reality for children across the country. The proposal builds on states’ existing infrastructure to expand access to free, universal, high-quality, and inclusive preschool services for 3- and 4- year olds and raise wages for preschool teachers. With New Mexico ranking as 49th or 50th in many national education and childhood well-being metrics, the Build Back Better Act and Land Grant Permanent Fund investments would complement each other, doubling down on efforts to set children up for success. The federal legislation authorizing New Mexico’s constitutional amendment has been endorsed by over 30 New Mexico organizations and passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in the state legislature.

Those organizations include CHI St. Joseph's Children, Organizing in the Land of Enchantment (OLE), Center for Civic Policy, Youth Development, Inc. (YDI), Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, NM Communidades en Accion y de Fe (CAFÉ), Center for Civic Policy, New Mexico Dream Team, Dreams in Action NM, The Semilla Project, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, New Mexico Voices for Children, New Mexico Working Families Party, NAVA Education Project, New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee (NMBCOC), New Mexico Thrives, New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry, New Mexico and the New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Asian Family Center, National Education Association New Mexico (NEA-NM), Save the Children Action Network, Partnership for Community Action, Southwest Organizing Project, Ngage New Mexico, New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children (NMAEYC), The League of Women Voters of New Mexico, NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN), Together for Brothers, and Growing Up New Mexico.

“We are grateful to Senator Heinrich and Congresswoman Stansbury for helping us advance HJR1 in the US Congress. Passing HJR1 earlier this year in the New Mexico Legislature was a huge first step in the kinds of deep investments that will turn the tide on education and family well-being in New Mexico. We will continue to work together to make sure that we get this across the finish line, giving voters the opportunity to make a transformational investment in our children—because the future of our state depends on it,” said N.M. State Representative and House Leader Javier Martinez. 

“Our children are our future. We have the resources to provide world class early childhood services for all New Mexico’s children,” said N.M. State Representative Moe Maestas. 

“New Mexico’s hardworking families need the security of sustainable and reliable funding for crucial early childhood programs like home visiting, child care assistance and preschool. This constitutional amendment will provide the stability needed to grow, improve and sustain our early childhood system, stability that is often lacking with our oil revenue roller coaster or the ebb and flow of federal funding,” said Jessa Cowdrey, Vice President of CHI St. Joseph’s Children (Disclaimer: CHI St. Joseph’s Children does not accept government funding).

"Ngage NM fully supports this groundbreaking opportunity for New Mexico to invest recurring dollars in early childhood education and K-12 education. There is no denying the importance of strategically dedicating state resources to our most valuable assets, our children, so that every child has opportunities to thrive. New Mexico voters deserve to have their voices heard on this critical amendment to the state constitution,” said Lori Martinez, Executive Director of Ngage New Mexico. 

“The plan to invest a small share of the Land Grant Permanent Fund in early childhood services has been in the works for many years, and Senator Heinrich has always been a champion of it. He understands the transformational power of high-quality early childhood care and education programs for New Mexico’s children. We appreciate that he and Rep. Melanie Stansbury are co-sponsoring the legislation needed to garner congressional support for this important change to the state constitution,” said Amber Wallin, Deputy Director of New Mexico Voices for Children.

Read the full text of the bill by clicking here.