It’s 2019! May this new year bring blessings, good health and prosperity to us all. And while the new year is a time for hope, it’s also a time for reflection.
The last eight years have not been good for New Mexico’s children. Ending this era of shame and disgrace, 2018 saw New Mexico at the bottom or near bottom of every major child wellness indicator: education, hunger, health care, homelessness, etc. This is not to be blamed on one party or another or solely the chief executive, for this responsibility rests with all of us. Every New Mexican has had opportunities to right this wrong and hasn’t. It’s now time to own this decadeslong debacle and move forward.
Let’s make 2019 the Year of the Child.
In this, the Year of the Child, our new governor and our elected representatives must pass legislation and forward policy that has at its foundation the overall wellness of our kids.
We must pass a budget which makes public education and services for our children cornerstones of our vision for New Mexico’s future. Imagine if you will, vibrant and relevant after school and summer programs for all of our children; arts and music education available in every school district; nurses, counselors, behavioral aides and education interventionists at all of our school sites statewide. There also will be parent supports for child-rearing education and the wrap-around and social service supports necessary to address the overall well-being of our children. And of course, we would be paying our teachers, administrators, and staff a “professional” wage and in so doing making New Mexico a desired and sought-after place to work and teach. This is what is possible in the Year of the Child.
In 2019 let’s finally use proceeds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to establish statewide, comprehensive and fully accountable programs for early childhood and birth to pre-K education available to all children. Never mind that forces over the years have kept legislation in this regard from making it out of committee and on to the floor. In this, the Year of the Child, we’re going to do the right thing and allow New Mexicans the opportunity to vote on these essential constitutional changes.
In 2019, we must recognize a serious weakness and completely overhaul our Public Education Department and foster greater collaboration with the Children, Youth and Families Department. Clearly the decisions and policies of the past have not been successful for our kids, our teachers or our public schools.
This means taking a hard look at every director/management position in the department and evaluating their respective competencies and achievements as they relate to the plan of the department. The Public Education Department must have leadership that embodies vision and inspires all those working in public education to summons their capacities for professional growth, innovation, and excellence.
In the Year of the Child, we finally will face head on the challenges related to sensible gun safety legislation. Now this does rest squarely with the governor and the Legislature.
Who in the Roundhouse has the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association and put child safety first? Our state must enact laws to provide for the necessary background checks at all points of sale or transfer of firearms, as a means of seeing to it that guns are not in the wrong hands. Additionally, laws related to owner responsibility for harm done with a firearm must be passed.
Obviously there are so many additional areas of policy and budget allocation that directly affect our children; a single- payer health plan being chief among them. We have the talent, professionals and community members to make tremendous gains for our kids. In the Year of the Child, we act as though our future depends on it.