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Santa Fe Mayor's Plan for a Sugar Tax To Fund Pre-K Should Become Wave of the Future in Every American School District

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Mayor Javier Gonzales spoke at a town hall meeting two days ago concerning his idea to develop preschool and Kindergarten programs in Santa Fe with his idea to levy a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on beverages containing sugar, a way of solving deep sociological and economic woes when funding from the state of New Mexico is dwindling.

Mayor Gonzales stated that pre-K educators have been "screaming at the top of their lungs that if we want to find a game-changing policy that will truly assure every child has access to the American Dream, you invest in them at their earliest years."

The backing for pre-K must involve visits with new parents in their homes, decent child care, etc. He pointed out that most of a child's brain development begins for the age of 5.

Gonzales informed about thirty early childhood education activists and workers and activists that this plan could bring in almost $8 million a year to support programs for 1,000 children, all dependent on City Council approval for a special March election and then subsequent voter acceptance. The speech this weekend was the kickoff in a series of public discussions to coalesce and build upon the present public support.

At the state level, funding bills never were passed and devolved into ugly partisan skirmishing with lofty bloviating speeches, and bills being trashed in fatuous glutinous committee meetings with grandiloquent grandstanding under the worshipful gazes of the corporate lobbyists.

Having watched for almost all of the fifty years that his author has lived in New Mexico while hundreds of millions of dollars are thrown at public education, with little improvement to speak of and with New Mexico firmly and seeming permanently located in the bottom 5 states in the US for Education, I genuinely welcome Javier's efforts.

He told the activists and educations that this commitment must start before the child is born, and must include for expectant mothers decent prenatal health care.

No new buildings would need to be built, and the Mayor envisions just expanding existing programs, including 200 new jobs at the Santa Fe Public Schools, United Way of Santa Fe County, and others. The $8 million that the sugar tax would raise would be administered by a brand new early childhood commission, with Santa Fe Community College overseeing these newly focused projects.

How refreshing as we look at federal level plans that are brewing to turn much public education over to charter schools and to private profit-making entities.

Gonzales used statistics that show that a majority of New Mexico children are not progressing in reading and therefore have been unable to meet third grade reading expectations. He did, however, make sure that all present understood that he opposed New Mexico's Governor's plan to retain 3rd graders who can't read at the expected grade level quality. However, I can see both of their points of view, and think such questions should be resolved on an individual basis.

The Mayor said this: "We won't have to be talking about these social promotion policies that the governor keeps throwing out as a way to solve our education problems. The way to solve our education challenges in New Mexico is to divert public education dollars earliest in the development of our children."

Republican Governor Susana Martinez in a recent email defended her administration and particularly her Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera, stating that they "dramatically increased classroom spending, and more than tripled our investment and doubled the amount of students enrolled in pre-K." Skandera is being considered for some as yet unnamed position in Trump's Department of Education, which I think might be one of a very good ideas...

The New Mexico Legislature interim committee on Education has carried out studies showing that only 1/3 of our state's eligible low income children are being served.

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