Senator Ben Ray Luján Announces Support for Early Childhood Education

This week, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján made a special visit to Booker T. Washington Elementary Community School to highlight the Federal government’s investment in Early Childhood Education Programs. During his visit, Senator Luján talked about the recent passing of the Land Grant Permanent funding that was recently approved by voters to support early childhood education programs. Senator Luján spoke about growing support for early childhood education and thanked educators at LCPS and partnerships such as Children’s Reading Alliance (CRA Parent Support) and their First Teacher/Primer Maestro within Doña Ana County that helped make it all possible. 

 “This is going to have a huge impact as we not only educate students, but parents as well,” said Superintendent Ralph Ramos. “With programs like First Teacher/Primer Maestro, which has been going on for years, we have an opportunity to continue building on to that. I want to thank the Children’s Reading Alliance for their advocacy and Senator Luján for his support in providing funding for infrastructure and teacher staffing for early childhood education. It’s all going to have a positive impact on early childhood educators,” Ramos added.

On November 8, 2022, voters in New Mexico passed a ballot measure, also known as Constitutional Amendment 1, to amend the state constitution to allow funding for early childhood education programs using the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF). The amendment received congressional approval for $150 million to support early childhood education in the state annually.  

“It’s a really great day to be able to celebrate all of the collaboration from the community, from the passage of the constitutional amendment to benefit from the investments of the permanent land fund, to congressionally directed spending,” U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján said.

When it comes to serving the needs for early childhood education, LCPS collaborates with the nonprofit Children’s Reading Alliance (CRA Parent Support) who offers the First Teacher/Primer Maestro Program to parents and caregivers of young children. The Children’s Reading Alliance was created more than ten years ago by local educators that wrote the curriculum specifically for residents and families of Doña Ana County, making it bilingual and culturally relevant for the community. 

“We just want families to have access to this program, because we know it benefits parents and it makes kids more prepared for school and life,” Marisa DeWolf, Executive Director of Children’s Reading Alliance said. 

The Children’s Reading Alliance works to increase children’s literacy rates through the effects of parent support services & programming, including the First Teacher/Primer Maestro program, & robust book distributions to better prepare children for their education in elementary school. CRA also works closely with Community Schools at LCPS, Ngage New Mexico, La Casa Inc., Doña Ana Resilience Leaders & the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service Office. Through bilingual programs like FT/PM, the focus is providing quality, accessible services to parents & caregivers of children ages 3-5. 

About Land Grant Permanent Fund

The Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF), also known as the Permanent School Fund, is one of the largest funds of its kind in the country, and every year provides over three-quarter of a billion dollars in benefits to New Mexico’s public schools, universities and other beneficiaries ($836.5 million in FY21).

U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján and the Children’s Reading Alliance. The purpose of his visit is to highlight the Federal government’s investment in Early Childhood Programs. Senator Luján will also be highlighting New Mexico’s recent passing of the Land Grant Permanent funding that was recently approved by voters to support Early Childhood Programs. The Children’s Reading Alliance is assisting the Senators Office in organizing this event. 

CRA’s Programs

Book distribution: Getting thousands of books each year into the hands of children through a wide range of community and school events and via La Clinica de Familia,Boys and Girls Club, Jardín de los Niños, Save the Children, Head Start, New Mexico PreK and other local partnerships. “There are so many opportunities to connect and collaborate,” DeWolf said.

First Teacher Program: This six-week bilingual training course is “our primary focus,” said DeWolf. It is a “really extensive, really effective” way CRA helps parents engage and interact with their children through reading and literacy techniques and tools. Participants receive almost 20 children’s books to keep – “It already creates a home library,” DeWolf said – along with educational toys and other learning tools. DeWolf said a recent impact study conducted by UTEP showed “families love the program and feel more confident in being able to support their children’s brain development,” she said. The overwhelming response from parents who participate in First Teacher is, “I read more often to my child and we spend more time together,” DeWolf said.