Santa Fe’s Early Childhood Education Initiative

early-childhood-edThe City of Santa Fe is committed to making Santa Fe a better place for children. Science tells us that children’s brain development and learning begin with their earliest experiences with adults and other children. High quality early education assures that precious hours of a child’s early development are filled with enriching learning opportunities that nurture them today and prepare them for a better future.

The Mayor’s Cabinet has endorsed the concept of full-day early childhood education. Based on this endorsement, a group of Santa Fe early childhood experts and providers has drafted an evidence-based plan to create high quality early childhood programs for Santa Fe’s children. This draft is now ready for community discussion.

Summary of the Plan.   Santa Fe will create a new city fund to provide high-quality early learning opportunities for children 0-4, with an initial focus on children with the greatest need. That fund will support

  1. Providing high-quality early childhood education to all Santa Fe 3- and 4-year-olds whose families want it. Grants will be awarded to early childhood education providers to fill Santa Fe’s unmet need for almost 1000 places in high-quality programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. Priority will be given to Centers and Schools who will serve 3- and 4-year-olds in areas with high need and low/no quality providers; these areas are in predominantly low-income neighborhoods. For centers that don’t currently meet New Mexico’s 4- and 5-star quality standards, support will be available to help them address barriers to quality improvement. The result will be access for all families that want to participate, and targeted support for families struggling to make ends meet. The grants may also include programs focused on prenatal care and children 0-2.
  1. A campaign to educate families and the community about early brain development and the value of early learning. Working with a broad array of public and private community partners, the city will support culturally inclusive strategies to increase parental awareness, public understanding, and support for early childhood learning both at home and in structured programs.
  1. A “navigation” system to help families of children 0-5 understand and access programs & services with three types of assistance: 1) Information about Santa Fe’s public and private services and programs for young children, and other resources to support families of young children—housing, health, food security, financial assistance: 2) Referrals to programs and services that meet families’ particular needs; and 3) Hands-on support in seeking out, applying for, securing financial assistance, and other processes to enable families to take full advantage of all state and local programs and resources.
  1. Support and resources for early childhood teachers to ensure quality and stability, including strengthening the professional preparation and career ladder that contribute to the quality of early childhood teaching.
  1. Support for a sustainable early childhood infrastructure to serve all of the community’s infants, toddlers, and pre-kindergarteners. This will include policy development that 1) supports local providers to increase access, quality, and affordability of programs and services and 2) enables families to understand, access, and braid together easily the set of services and programs that best meet their needs.

Cost & Potential revenue source. We estimate the plan to cost $7.5 MM per year in city dollars, which will be used to augment revenue from federal, state, and private sources (foundation grants and family contributions). A 2-cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages paid for by beverage distributers will fund the program. The tax is estimated to yield $7.7 million each year for at least 10 years.

Oversight and administration. A city Early Childhood Development Commission comprising highly qualified professionals in early childhood education and finance, as well as parents and community leaders, will provide oversight, allocate funds, and ensure accountability of funds through performance measures.   A professional staff will administer the grants and contracts awarded to providers.

Return on Investment. Most important is improving the lives and futures of Santa Fe’s children. There is reliable evidence that high quality early learning programs lead to higher educational attainment, better wages, and better health outcomes. Well-grounded estimates predict a return of over $25,000 per child, or $3.30 for every $1 in costs by

  • Creating approximately 200 new jobs for early childhood teachers and staff.
  • Reducing childcare expenses for families
  • Increasing productivity among parents who can work because their children have full-day care.
  • Reducing educational costs with lower rates of children being identified for special education, remedial education programs, and grade retention.

For more information about the initiative, plans for Town Hall meetings, and other activities, email hello@prekforsantafe.org and someone will return your email ASAP. To review a list of Frequently Asked Questions with concise responses, click here.