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Adding Early Childhood to City Planning – LB 880

Nebraska State Senator Matt Hansen introduced LB 880 to add an early childhood element to city comprehensive planning.

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Nebraska statute lays out guidelines for comprehensive development plans for four separate items – for metropolitan class cities, primary class cities, all other cities and counties. In all these cases, the general guidelines are the same. The comprehensive development plan is intended to be a long-range plan that helps the city or country figure out how to pursue its preferred future situation.

Statutes dictate that a planning commission of five, seven or nine members appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council, village board or county board are to offer recommendations on any comprehensive plan. Besides metropolitan class cities – which only includes Omaha – there are several facets required by statute that comprehensive plans must evaluate. The include infrastructure, schools, public utilities, housing and public facilities. Adding an early childhood element would require adding identical language to the each of the four statutes addressing comprehensive plans. Requiring that the early childhood element be mandatory only until 2022 also has precedent – in 2010, the Nebraska Legislature mandated that any new or updated comprehensive plan between July 15, 2010 and January 1 2015 include an energy element.

Early childhood education is clearly important to Nebraska communities. The Committee for Economic Development released a 2017 brief emphasizing that a quality early childhood program can improve a child’s readiness for school, which in turn leads to students who are prepared to learn and eventually enter the workforce and benefit their cities and counties economically. Evaluating and examining the facilities available to young children now can make a major difference to the children and to the future of the community as well.