SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will create a new state agency to oversee early childhood education programs under a bill signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The first-term Democratic governor signed the bill Thursday as she attempts to make good on campaign pledges to pursue universal access to preschool and respond to evidence that early schooling has a lifelong impact.

The legislation from Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque and Rep. Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe would put a new Cabinet secretary in charge of everything from home-visit care for infants to early preschool.

Padilla says the Early Childhood Education and Care Department in the long run should reduce poverty and crime as better-educated children mature.

The Legislature has balked at dedicating more money to early education from a multibillion-dollar state trust.

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