In New Mexico, more then one in three children come from families living on less then $23,000 a year. It's the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country. At the same time, the state has the lowest educational outcomes based on test scores and graduation rates.
A new report from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty enhances the understanding of how the two are undeniably intertwined. Gail Evans, the Center's Legal Director said it's not that New Mexico's teachers and schools are sub par. Instead, she said, it needs to be acknowledge that because so many children are living in poverty, its much harder to do well in school.
"Living in the stress of poverty means that you're not coming to school everyday ready to learn. It impacts cognitive development and children enter school behind," explained Evans. "Because we have such a large portion of at-risk children, because we have such high levels of poverty, it does take a significant investment."
And that's an investment Evan's believes New Mexico has not made. She said the education system is underfunded by more then 15 percent.
The study recommends raising the state's minimum wage and ensuring that people who qualify for safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps are taking advantage of those services. It also recommends that schools with high levels of poverty get sufficient additional funding to target those children and eliminate the achievement gap.