In 2018, when Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected the 32nd governor of New Mexico, the state ranked last in the nation in overall child well-being. Four years later, not much has changed.
According to the 2022 KIDS COUNT child well-being report, New Mexico is yet again the worst-ranked state in the country.
Every year, KIDS COUNT ranks states based on economic-well-being, education, health, and family and community. Since 2018, New Mexico has ranked last. The exception came in 2021, when the state eked out a 49th place finish over Mississippi. This year, Mississippi ranks 48th, followed by Louisiana in 49th.
According to Amber Wallin of New Mexico Voices for Children, which manages the state’s Kids Count program, not all is lost.
“The COVID pandemic caused major challenges for families that blunted the progress New Mexico had been making to improve child well-being,” said Wallin, who added, according to The Albuquerque Journal, that “What’s not reflected in the data book is ‘great policy progress in the past few years that put kids first.'”
“In economic well-being New Mexico is ranked 48th; in education we’re ranked 50th; in health we’re ranked 39th; and in family and community the state is 48th. Using a formula that compares all states and all 16 indicators, New Mexico’s overall ranking is 50th, Wallin explained.”–“New Mexico slips to 50th in child well-being,” The Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 8, 2022
Both are fair points. The problem is that every state suffered setbacks because of COVID, and “great” seems a very generous descriptor considering the “progress” New Mexico made still sent it from 49th to 50th.
The KIDS COUNT national rankings account for progress in every state. To fall back to 50th place means that New Mexico was in such dire straights that even “great progress” wasn’t enough to make the state better than even one other state.
With Grisham at the helm for four years now, that ranking falls solely on Grisham’s shoulders.
When running for governor in 2018, Grisham issued a press release highlighting what she called “the vacuum of leadership” on education in New Mexico. She lamented the fact that the state ranked 49th in the annual “Quality Counts” report, adding, “It is time for a new direction.”
According to the 2021 Quality Counts report (the latest available), New Mexico ranked 51st, behind even Washington, DC.
Apparently “new direction” meant backward.
Other than the lockdowns, the sixth-worst COVID fatality rate in the country, 40% of businesses closing, record homicides, the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and 14,000 jobs that still haven’t returned, it’s almost like Grisham was never governor at all.