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Support for the “Step Up to Quality Act” for early childhood care (LB 507)

Voices for Children in Nebraska testified in support of LB 507, a bill which would help increase the quality of child care available across the state.  Here is our written testimony:

Voices for Children in Nebraska would like to express our support for LB 507 and thank Senator Campbell for bringing forward this bill.  Over the past few decades, understanding of early childhood and the significant brain development that occurs during this time period has grown significantly.  There has been a growing recognition across sectors—ranging from the business community to military leaders and law enforcement—of the long-ranging impact and potential of this developmental stage.

What we know now is that the achievement gap in educational outcomes starts before children enter their formal schooling and is largely based on socioeconomic status.  Middle-to-high-income 3-year-olds have heard three times the number of words as their low-income peers.[1]  These differences are exacerbated over the years until children reach the critical demarcation line of 3rd grade where they switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”  Children that fail to successfully make this transition are likely to have ongoing academic problems through their school years.

In spite of the potential of early childhood, Nebraska is currently spending significantly less on young children than on their older peers. According to the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, early care and education in our state receives about 1% of the funding devoted to K-12 education.[2]  While investment in K-12 education is critical, it is also important to devote resources to early childhood when issues are far easier to address issues than when they are further down the line.  The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks Nebraska 38th in the nation on resources devoted to early childhood.[3]

We hope that the time has come for Nebraska to invest additional resources in early childhood and LB 507 is an important piece of this puzzle.  LB 507 helps to ensure that quality in early childhood is defined and that providers are incentivized to improve the quality of care.  In addition to improving the quality of care, we need to ensure that parents can access it.  We can do that by improving eligibility for our child care subsidy program, which remains at the lowest in the nation.  Nebraska needs to make both access and quality a priority in early childhood to ensure that we are giving our state’s children the best possible chance for success.  These investments will pay off in the long term with more successful adults and taxpayers and we urge the committee to advance this bill.  Thank you.

[1] Discussion Guide: Ensuring Success for Young Children: Early Childhood Literacy, Association of Small Foundations (November 2008)

[2] Public Expenditures, Advancing Early Childhood Policy, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

[3] The State of Pre-School: 2011

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