Early childhood funding amendment passes by wide margin

By Nathan Lederman Nov 8, 2022

Allen Sánchez waited about a decade for New Mexico to put increased funding for early childhood education on the ballot. All those years of waiting appeared to have paid off Tuesday.

Constitutional Amendment 1 was headed to passage — it had about 70 percent support through much of the evening — and now makes way for a comparative deluge of funds to be spent on early childhood education in New Mexico.

“This is better than New Year’s Eve. I don’t think anybody gives us $150 million on New Year’s Eve, huh? So we’re going to celebrate. We’re changing the state,” said Sánchez, who is the president of Catholic nonprofit CHI St. Joseph’s Children.

The amendment asked New Mexicans to consider approving an increase in annual withdrawals from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund — valued at more than $26 billion — to send about $150 million annually for early childhood education and $100 million for the state’s public schools.

Legislators passed a resolution in 2021 to put Constitutional Amendment 1 on the ballot after years of pushback from conservatives on both sides of the aisle and efforts to get additional funding were thwarted by former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.

Proponents of the amendment gathered Tuesday night at an election party sponsored by CHI St. Joseph’s Children at Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque to celebrate years of work finally paying off.

Alicia Manzano and her daughter, Aliana Manzano, listen to speakers at the Constitutional Amendment 1 watch party at Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque on Tuesday evening. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

Sánchez stood at the lectern, hours before Constitutional Amendment 1 was declared a winner by some media outlets, and thanked the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops for its long-standing support of the funding for early childhood education with the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, who was in attendance, said there are many tangential benefits to increasing funding for early childhood education, including the support parents can receive through home visitations. He said many University of New Mexico professors have written papers and given talks on how the amendment will help kids throughout the state.

“All the evidence is clear that when you do what this initiative is going to do with this constitutional amendment, it’s going to be crucial, no doubt,” Wester said. “I’m excited for the kids mainly. I mean, this is going to really be, for them, an absolute winner.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich took to the podium to acknowledge the uphill battle involved in passing Constitutional Amendment 1. He said decades into the future, even with 2022’s slew of consequential races, the investment made in New Mexico’s children will have the longest-lasting effect.

“This is the election that everyone’s going to look at and say, this made a difference in the trajectory of a generation and a state,” Heinrich said.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller took to the stage shortly after Sánchez declared Constitutional Amendment 1 was a winner at about 8:20 p.m. He thanked all of the people who helped fight for the amendment’s passage and spoke about the impact it will have.

“It is rare in our lives when we can be part of history, of making change for the better, and I believe this amendment is one of those examples. I have to tell you, if we don’t do anything else — we’ll try to do all sorts of different things in our lives to make change and be the change we want to see — but, tonight we did it. And so let’s celebrate,” Keller said.

CHI St. Joseph’s Children President Allen Sánchez speaks to the crowd gathered waiting on the results of Constitutional Amendment 1 at Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque on Tuesday evening. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

Constitutional Amendment 1 was one of three amendments headed toward passage Tuesday.

Constitutional Amendment 2 is set to create an exception to New Mexico’s anti-donation clause and allow the state Legislature to allocate funds for essential household services, while Constitutional Amendment 3 ensured any judge appointed to a court in New Mexico will serve for at least a year before running in a general election to keep their position.

Other ballot questions put before voters this November included a series of state bond questions and county bond questions for New Mexicans to decide how they would like their local and state government to spend millions of dollars in funds.

Bond Question 1 would put up to $24.47 million to improve or construct facilities for senior citizens, while Bond Question 2 would put up to $19.3 million toward capital expenses for schools, tribes and public libraries. Bond Question 3 would put up to nearly $216 million to make capital expenditures for “certain higher education, special schools and tribal schools.” All three were headed to passage on Tuesday.

Santa Fe County voters were on track to pass three local bond questions late Tuesday, with all three getting more than 80 percent of the vote. Bond Question 1 would put up to $13 million to “acquire, construct, equip and improve roads,” and Bond Question 2 would spend up to $7 million for water and wastewater projects. Bond Question 3 would spend up to $5 million in bonds to “acquire, design, construct improve, equip and restore open space, trails and parks.”

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