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New Mexico Early Childhood Supporters Gear Up for Expansion Effort

Supporters of early-childhood education in New Mexico are hoping that the fifth time is the charm. 

Preschool proponents have wanted to use up to $110 million a year from the state's $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for programs. Right now, proceeds from the fund are reserved for the state's K-12 public schools and universities. Legislative action authorizing the fund for preschool has failed for the past four legislative sessions, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican, but State Sen. Michael Padilla, a Democrat, told the newspaper he plans to reintroduce legislation to that end.

New Mexico voters support diverting some of the money to early childhood, according to a poll conducted Sept. 9-11 by the Albuquerque JournalThat poll found that 66 percent of voters were in favor of using the money for that purpose. The efforts have failed in the past, however, because opponents have said that financing preschool will reduce the fund's overall growth and divert money away from expenditures that have already been approved, the Journal article notes. 

According to the National Institute of Early Education Research, about 18 percent of 4-year-olds in New Mexico are enrolled in preschool. In 2012, the state also was awarded $25 million in federal funding for in the second round of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant.

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