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New Mexico's Investment in Preschool is Paying Off, Legislative Study Shows

Children who participated in New Mexico's public preschool program did better than their peers who did not on 3rd grade standardized tests of math and reading, according to a legislative study released in August. 

New Mexico's preschool program is relatively small. Aimed at children from low-income families, it only serves about one third of eligible kids. But the academic gains garnered by participants were measurable. Only 18 percent of children from low-income families who weren't enrolled in the state's free preschool program showed proficiency on the state's 3rd grade tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. In contrast, 24 percent of children from low-income families who did attend the program showed proficiency in math and 22 percent in reading on the same tests.

It should be noted that the higher scores for those who did attend preschool still result in less than a quarter of New Mexico's 3rd graders achieving proficiently in math and reading.

Nonetheless, the gains made by offering preschool have reignited an ongoing effort by advocates there to funnel some of the money from the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund to preschool, a move many lawmakers are strongly opposed to. One recommendation, covered by The Santa Fe New Mexican, called for $101 million to expand public preschool to all low-income children.

"This report proves now more than ever that the only way to fully fund early childhood is from an additional 1 percent distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund," Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque, who has pushed for such legislation in the past, told The New Mexican.

Read The Santa Fe New Mexican article for more detail on the report and the current preschool debate in New Mexico.

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