PRESS RELEASE - September 27, 2004
Office of The Governor
Capitol Bldg., 4th Floor
Santa Fe, NM 87503

Gilbert Gallegos
(505) 476-2217

Governor Bill Richardson vows to increase
Access to Pre-Kindergarten for 4-year-olds

ALBUQUERQUE - Governor Bill Richardson today announced plans to increase access
to pre-kindergarten programs across the state. The New Mexico Pre-K plan, which will
be presented to the 2005 Legislature, will be a public-private partnership that relies on
community organizations to design local, high-quality Pre-K programs that are based on
successful models.

“We’re investing directly in New Mexico’s children,” Governor Bill Richardson said of
the voluntary pre-kindergarten plan, which was unveiled during a news conference today
at Emerson Elementary School in Albuquerque. “It won’t be easy. But we must make that
investment in four-year-olds, at the front end, early in the learning process.”

The plan calls for increasing access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for New
Mexico four-year-olds. Currently, private and public programs, such as Head Start, serve
half, or about 14,000 New Mexico four-year-olds. Another 14,000 kids either do not have
access, or their families cannot afford pre-K programs.

Under the plan developed by the Children’s Cabinet, a group of the Governor’s Cabinet
Secretaries led by Lt. Governor Diane Denish, the state would invest in voluntary prekindergarten
programs designed by Early Childhood Community Councils.

“It will be voluntary and community based,” Lt. Governor Diane Denish said of the Pre-
K plan. “Nobody knows a community better than the people who live there.”

The Councils, made up of early childhood educators, parents, schools, business and other
community leaders, would design programs, and apply for state funding - initially
between $7 million and $9 million. The Councils would propose new programs based on
innovative pre-kindergarten models, or propose ways to expand existing, successful
programs, using state resources to increase access to more children.

The State Public Education Department and the Children, Youth & Families Department
would determine standards for the New Mexico Pre-Kindergarten programs, including
how community proposals are selected for funding. The program would be phased in
over a number of years, depending on the number of kids served and the type of
programs that individual communities choose to implement.

Governor Richardson said he wants to build on the success of New Mexico’s full-day
kindergarten program. But the Governor pointed to teacher surveys in other states that
suggest between 35 and 50 percent of five-year-olds show up for Kindergarten not
prepared to learn.

“Too many children are entering Kindergarten unprepared,” Governor Bill Richardson
said. “We can make a significant and lifelong difference in the lives of children who
aren’t prepared to learn by providing pre-Kindergarten in New Mexico.”