The Urban Affairs Committee has prioritized LB 873, amended to include two critical components for quality early childhood education in Nebraska.
LB 873 includes the two Holland Children’s Movement priority bills, LB 768 and LB 880. The inclusion of these bills supports ongoing efforts to increase access to affordable, quality child care in Nebraska. One component would require the inclusion of an early childhood element in comprehensive city plans over the next five years, or when a new plan is created, or updates are made to an existing plan. The second component would expand the use of LB 840 funds to include and recognize early childhood as an important factor in economic infrastructure development.
A 2017 report by the National Institute for Early Education Research emphasizes the role of cities in developing early childhood education, finding that policies promoting high-quality early childhood education are “a key element of any city’s overall strategy to promote current and future health.”
Within Nebraska, one need look no further to see the value and vision of the early childhood proposals within LB 873 than the priority the community of Red Cloud has placed on the development of a high quality early childhood program to help ensure their economy not only survives, but thrives.
“With reliable and affordable child care, employees will miss fewer days of work, making employers more satisfied. I think Red Cloud will be an even more attractive small town to newcomers with high-quality childcare in place. It has the potential to strengthen our school district and stabilize our town’s population,” said Ashley Armstrong, of the Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund.
Comprehensive city plans already require the careful examination and evaluation of infrastructure, schools, public utilities, housing, public facilities and more. LB 873 provides the next logical step to evaluate early childhood education in cities and opens the use of local authority and local funding opportunities to finance quality early childhood education efforts and bolster economic development.
A report by the National League of Cities (NLC) in 2016 demonstrated the importance of including early childhood education in city plans. “Many municipalities collect a wide range of data about children and families through various city departments. City leaders can draw upon these data in assessing early childhood needs. For example, geographic information systems used by local planning departments can map out where services are located, show whether early childhood programs are accessible to low-income families, and help target services to areas of greatest need. Census and industry data collected by local economic development agencies can also shed light on growth patterns and future needs.” The NLC report goes on to say that the greater the community buy-in on early childhood initiatives, the easier it will be for effective and coordinated planning.
The Washington Post found in a 2015 national poll that more than three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers had passed up work opportunities, switched jobs or quit their job due to a lack of paid leave or child care. Furthermore, in 2016, NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that two-thirds of parents said they had access to “only one” or “just a few” realistic child care options. And of greatest significance are the voices of Nebraskans.
In recent public opinion research conducted by our sister organization, the Holland Children’s Institute, access to affordable child care was overwhelmingly popular. Among those with children under age 18 at home, nearly all favor expanding access to affordable child care (93%), and of those without children at home the clear majority (69%) are also in favor.
LB 873 includes proposals of great importance to building on the existing efforts to increase access to quality early childhood care and education, which in turn will strengthen communities now and long into the future. In concert, these proposals can ensure more young children enter school ready to succeed and grow into the workforce of tomorrow.
 Washington Post: The surprising number of parents scaling back at work to care for their kids https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-surprising-number-of-moms-and-dads-scaling-back-at-work-to-care-for-their-kids/2015/08/06/c7134c50-3ab7-11e5-b3ac-8a79bc44e5e2_story.html?utm_term=.6483784957df
 NPR: Child Care and Health in America https://www.npr.org/documents/2016/oct/Child-Care-and-Development-Report-2016.pdf
 Nebraska Values Project Installment IV, Holland Children’s Institute, March 20, 2018, available at https://hollandinstitute.org/fact-tank/
 “Red Cloud proves small-town success doesn’t just happen,” Nebraska Community Foundation, Omaha World Herald, June 20, 2017. http://www.omaha.com/living/the-better-half/red-cloud-proves-small-town-success-doesn-t-just-happen/article_883f165e-51e8-11e7-b357-57c80193cdeb.html
 National League of Cities: Supporting Early Childhood Success Issue #6 http://www.nlc.org/sites/default/files/2016-12/early-childhood-action-kit-apr07.pdf