The state Early Childhood Education and Care Department suggested a regulation modification to retain extended eligibility for early childcare assistance on a day of action by certain early childcare institutions countrywide.
In 2021, ECECD allowed a family of four earning up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to receive state aid for early childcare. ECECD wants to make the policy permanent.
Early childcare providers will receive higher fees and keep a $3 per hour boost from 2021 under the regulation change. ECECD communications director Micah McCoy told NM Political Report that no early childcare worker would make less than $15 an hour, but lead instructors can make $20.
If approved, the proposal will exclude households up to 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level from copays for early childcare and exempt families receiving early child care assistance from gross receipts tax on child care.
A Day Without Childcare, coordinated by Community Change Action, coincided with the announcement. Cities across closed early childcare centers for a day to remind the public of their economic value. The organization wants early childcare instructors to receive a livable wage like K-12 public school teachers.
An early childcare advocacy charity, at least five New Mexico early childcare institutions participated.
Las Cruces’ Kelly’s Learning Academy closed for the day. Merline Gallegos, the academy’s director, said she has been in business for 11 years and has 17 children on a waiting list, but she has had to pay her staff out of pocket to stay operating. She stated her clients’ parents understand why she closed for a day.
I’ve done one-day closures for two years. “I want to raise awareness nationwide for an affordable, racial justice-based childcare system,” Gallegos stated via an interpreter.
Gallegos stated ECECD’s modifications will raise care provider compensation by 20–30% and professional educator salaries by $3 per hour.
“This is a big step for us,” Gallegos remarked via an interpreter.
Gallegos said there is an early childcare desert, especially for 0-to-3-year-olds, which affects parents. She observed over 20 early childcare institutions shut during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Most early childhood instructors are women of color, according to OLÉ NM digital director Jennifer Matthews.
She told NM Political Report that public school educators should get equal remuneration.
Attendees of Gallegos’ day of action also discussed industry racism.
Maria Hernandez, who came in the U.S. without a social security number, claimed she used to care for children. She works in Las Cruces’ chile fields and raises her daughter’s children.
We’re immigrants. It’s racist. “I can look after kids,” Hernandez claimed through an interpreter.
Hernandez claimed her daughter works in chile crops. Another family member watches her daughter’s two children while they work.
Lourdes Perez, a non-English-speaking mom, said putting her children was difficult.
“I understand more than I speak,” she told the interpreter. If you don’t speak the language, centers don’t see or talk to you.
Perez supported Gallegos’ early childcare worker wage hike day of action.
Perez, a state-subsidized mother of six, said she and her children worry that Gallegos’ program may collapse without further funding. Perez, a Spanish speaker, repeatedly told an interpreter that she felt secure leaving her children at Gallegos’ center and how important that was to her.
Las Cruces chile fields employ Perez. To work, she must drop off and pick up her children between 4 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Perez told an interpreter, “It would be very difficult if she closed because of my income to leave my kids.
Perez met Gallegos at a bus stop by happenstance. Gallegos teaches her two-year-old linguistic skills, which is why she values her center. Perez also trusts Gallegos to assist with her autistic child. Two of Perez’s elder children visit the facility after school.
“She helps with homework,” Perez stated through an interpreter.
Gallegos, her mother, employs Las Cruces first-year student Jennifer Martinez. Martinez aspires to run an early childcare facility like her mother despite her mother’s struggles.
She believed a pay boost would allow her to live.
“No other state in the nation is doing more to relieve the financial burden of child care for families and make sure early childhood educators are fairly compensated for the incredibly important work they do,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a news release. “This administration will continue our groundbreaking work to build an early childhood system that lifts up families and supports bright futures for our children.”
Written comments on the proposed rule change are due by June 22, 2023. The ECECD will receive public comment from 9 to 11 a.m. June 22 in PERA Building, Apodaca Hall, 1120 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe.
“Our proposed changes add to a set of historic and generational investments in New Mexico’s prenatal-to-age-five system that will be a game changer for families and young children in our state,” said Elizabeth Groginsky, ECECD Cabinet Secretary, in the statement.