My name is Leah Chavez my husband and I were both born and raised in Santa Fe and are proud to be raising our 5-year-old daughter in our hometown. I am however very concerned about the quality of education available in our community.
I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Gonzales at our daughter's school Playschool of the Arts for Kids to learn more about his Pre-K for Santa Fe Initiative. I left that meeting feeling certain, that this initiative is important for the future of our families and our whole community. There have been dozens of national reports and studies that have come out recently, citing how poorly New Mexico's education system fares. Instead of stating the facts we already know, I wanted to tell you our family's story.
In 2013, we contacted CYFD to get a list of Early learning providers. We toured 5 different schools and quickly realized that the CYFD rating system was not an accurate representation of the quality of the centers. We found 5-star centers that were awful and 3-star centers that were wonderful and no distinction between daycare and early learning centers. We knew home daycare would not be the best option for our family, and we wish that CYFD's rating system was more helpful in determining the quality of a center and finding what fit our needs and goals for our daughter.
Our daughter started at Playschool of the Arts for Kids (a 3-star center) when she was 18 months old. We chose Playschool because of the curriculum and teaching philosophies. We did not just want a babysitter to watch our child. We wanted her to be in the educational environment.
When our daughter first started school we were fortunate to receive assistance from CYFD. That year, our locally owned business, Peaceful Pet Sitters began to grow, and so did our income. But nowhere near the rate that tuition increased. In one month, our monthly tuition cost went from $135.00 per month to $994.50. Now my husband and I, like many other New Mexico parents, are paying more for the cost of childcare per year than it would cost to send our daughter to the University of New Mexico. For this reason, alone, we looked into SFPS tuition free Pre-K options. However, the Pre-K program only provides programming for 1/2 days Monday - Thursdays.
Simply put, there are not enough affordable full day programs to meet the needs of our working parents. CYFD and PED programs don't really give parents a choice, and we often have to take what we can get. Do we really wonder why kids enter school unprepared?
This is why I am fully in favor of a tax to help fund early childhood education for our children at this most critical time in their development. I understand the business community is opposed to this idea because they are only looking at the immediate future and upfront cost to their sales. These costs will, of course, be passed on to the consumer and the businesses books will balance in the end. As a small business owner myself, I would like to ask other businesses who are their consumers? We all know the answer is that their customers are the same family's that this tax would in-turn help. Parents would have more money to spend in our local stores, and our kids will grow up being more productive members of our community. People who drink sugary drinks will continue to drink them regardless of a tax. If we don't look at alternative funding for education our kids, our families and our communities will continue to have the invisible and unnecessary disadvantage.
Santa Fe is an expensive town to live in. Please support working families who want to stay life and raise their children here. It is important that something this important to our communities is considered by our citizens. That is why my family supports our Mayors proposal to let Santa Feans vote for Pre-K for Santa Fe on May 2nd!
-Leah Chavez - Santa Fe, NM