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UNM gets state contract to improve early ed services

October 12, 2017
Cynthia Miller
Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department has awarded a $5.5 million contract to The University of New Mexico to provide free staff training, technical aid and other support services aimed at improving day care centers and preschool providers throughout the state.

UNM is expected to have the new support system in place by January — a system that places a heavier emphasis on ensuring teachers and other child care workers are trained to identify behavioral health concerns in children.

The deal will lead to the restoration of most of the 89 consultant positions lost in late June, when the department’s previous contracts for similar services expired. Those regional contracts had been awarded and renewed without a public, competitive bidding process, state officials said at the time, which is part of the reason for the change. There also had been complaints that the quality of services offered was inconsistent throughout the state. Still, the department’s decision to allow a lapse in the consulting services — and dozens of job losses — raised concerns among some Democrats in the state Legislature.

Another reason to overhaul the early education support system, child welfare officials said, was a $2.5 million drop in federal funding for the services as New Mexico’s Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education ran out. A single contractor, said Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson, would cut down on administrative costs and allow more of the remaining funds to go straight into efforts to boost the quality of child care and preschool programs.