Don’t miss the chance to say yes to kids

October 27, 2022, published in the Santa Fe New Mexican. Written by Katherine Freeman

As president and CEO of Growing Up New Mexico, formerly United Way of Santa Fe County,
increasing opportunities for young children – prenatally through age 5 – and their families to
thrive has been my passion for more than 20 years.

During my time in this position, I have learned about the science backing the importance early
childhood. Eighty-five percent of the human brain develops in the first five years, and research
shows that frequent positive early experiences and interactions, combined with family stability,
are critical to future academic outcomes, employment, physical health and mental well-being. I
am also fully aware of the high return on investment in quality early childhood programs and
services, with every dollar spent delivering a return of seven percent or more.

Most importantly, I have personally seen the direct impacts home visiting, early literacy, child
care and pre-K have on families in our communities. When parents and other caregivers are
supported and empowered, they become their child’s best teachers and advocates.

Unfortunately, early childhood is an area that suffers from chronic and historic underinvestment
despite the high return for society, including increased rates of educational achievement and
lower crime and poverty rates. Nationwide, early childhood systems have been disproportionately
negative effects because of the coronavirus pandemic, including the financial strain of high child
care costs on families, staffing challenges for employers and wages that remain unable to keep up
with other industries. In New Mexico, we have an opportunity to change all of this by voting yes
on Constitutional Amendment 1.

We are poised to become the first state in the nation to make early childhood support a
constitutional right. That’s one reason to vote yes for Constitutional Amendment 1 in the 2 election. The other reasons are even stronger because they are about the children who will benefit
from this change, their families and the professionals throughout our state who work tirelessly to
support them.

A yes vote will bring increased funding for early childhood, which is needed to improve outcomes
for young children and families. However, for this amendment to work as intended, we must have
transparent communication about the use of funding, accountability on where it goes, and what it
impacts. Ultimately, we need to move forward with trust that we can do better while demanding
that our state take care to execute it well.

We’ve spent decades working to improve early childhood in New Mexico. Now, we face a historic
choice this November and a chance to lead the nation. At Growing Up New Mexico, we are clear
that the right choice is the one that supports New Mexico’s children. We urge everyone to vote yes
on Constitutional Amendment 1. Vote yes for kids.

Katherine Freeman is the president and CEO of Growing Up New Mexico. Learn more about its work by