Our team worked with state partners and lawmakers to create Step Up to Quality (hyperlink), the first public quality rating and improvement system of child care providers in Nebraska. Programs serving the highest populations of children through the child care subsidy program participate in Step Up to Quality. These new quality ratings go beyond licensing and strive for better, for all of Nebraska’s children.
Early childhood programs that care for and educate children in Nebraska’s lowest income families should be committed to high quality care. The greatest barriers to building quality early childhood education start with affordable access and teacher qualifications. In 2016, Nebraska became the second state to pass School Readiness Tax Credits for early childhood programs and members of the workforce. The credits are tied directly to Step Up to Quality (hyperlink) ratings and the professional qualifications of the workforce. The higher the level of program quality and staff qualifications, the higher the tax credits. These tax credits serve as an incentive and a catalyst for speeding up the availability of quality statewide. Holland Children’s Movement advocacy was integral in passing this legislation. Our team steered this innovative solution from the idea state through to the Governor’s signature on the final bill.
Success for children starts with access to prenatal care. Due to a federal change in 2010, approximately 870 undocumented immigrants and 750 legal residents lost prenatal coverage through Medicaid in Nebraska. In 2012 we worked with a coalition of advocates and lawmakers to restore this prenatal coverage.
Crucial groundwork is laid for the workforce of today and tomorrow through the child care subsidy program. This program provides child care assistance so families can attend work or school. We have worked consistently over the years to support policy improvements to program eligibility and to tie public investment to quality efforts. We have also successfully defended against repeated attempts to curb access and funding to the program. In 2017, we worked with providers and key lawmakers to mitigate a budget cut targeting the cared care subsidy program.
Children begin learning at birth. Home visitation programs can ensure parents are their child’s first and most effective teachers. The funding for this program has gradually increased over time, and in 2014 we supported the expansion of funding the utilization of an evidence-based framework.
In 2014, we served as the leadership for Better Wages Nebraska. Because of our work to support a petition drive and ballot initiative campaign, Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour. This ground-breaking ballot initiative unified Nebraskans
In 2015, hundreds of Nebraskans signed our “End the Cliff” online petition in support of the successful passage of LB 81, to lessen the “cliff effect” in our child care assistance program for low income, working families. The prior steep eligibility cliff was a disincentive to workers from accepting a raise or working more hours because a modest increase in earnings resulted in program ineligibility. Creating a smooth transition to economic stability – instead of a cliff – is a smart policy that supports work as a way out of poverty.
In 2015 we supported legislation to strengthen workplace protections for pregnant women and new mothers. LB 627 was an overdue update to Nebraska’s employment law. Because of this bill, pregnant and new mothers in Nebraska can request reasonable accommodations in the workplace without fear of losing their job. Accommodations such as a space to express breast milk, a chair for sitting, and bathroom breaks.
Recently, these laws saw another improvement. Supported by a combination of our research (hyperlink) and advocacy efforts, LB 427 became law in 2017 to support the health and education rights of pregnant and parenting students and their children in every school district in Nebraska. This two-generational approach to policy and practice will change the future trajectory for countless young Nebraskans.