Greetings from the Capitol!
Early childhood education has been a passion of mine since I began in the Legislature. I simply believe that by improving the educational environment for children, we can open up new doors to the future.
I introduced LB 190 on Monday, March 4 in front of the Appropriations Committee, which is a bill that takes ten million dollars from our general funds and invests them in early childhood education in Nebraska.
The Sixpence program will match state funding with ten million in private dollars. Private businesses know that by investing in a child’s early education, that businesses are investing in our future work force and economy in Nebraska. Hence, the reason for the private match.
Sixpence serves children from zero to age three. However, the Sixpence program is currently only able to reach 1% of 30,000 infants and toddlers who are at risk of failing in school. With this funding, Sixpence is expected to reach a higher percentage of children in Nebraska.
Nearly 60,000 children from birth to age five are at risk of failing in school, and that number is growing at a rapid pace in our state. According to the U.S. Census, in the last ten years, this population segment has increased by about 13,602 children. Unfortunately, with that 13,602 increase, the number of children who are at-risk of failing in school has risen nearly 11,663. According to that increase, it isn’t difficult to figure out that the population growth is not going to benefit us if we can’t properly develop these children.
Once again, this is an investment in our future, yielding high returns in Nebraska. Our cost savings in terms of reduction in crime, remediation and welfare costs to the state will be significant. This will work towards the betterment of our communities, as well as enhancing the family unit.
The family unit has been disintegrating in past decades across our nation. Sixpence focuses on parental involvement in the child’s early education years, and the program works with parents and their children on building relationships, promoting language and supporting confidence.
Again, I want to emphasize that the early years between zero and five are the most significant in terms of brain development. If the child is already struggling upon reaching kindergarten, our education system is not always able to raise them to the appropriate level, which puts a considerable amount of time, resources and strain on our system.
These children are continually behind in school until the drop out point. And let’s face it, these children will not likely acquire the skills to pursue a college education. We need to fund effective programs that can properly develop that segment of the at risk population growth.
Child development will enable student achievement, help children remember and follow multi-step instructions, avoid distractions, control rash responses, adjust when rules change, persist at problem solving and manage long-term assignments. In the first three years, our brains form the framework for decision-making, teamwork, leadership, working towards goals, adaptability and the critical thinking process in our lifetime.
The consequences of no action toward development is that children will not be able to acquire a worthy education, trade or career and our economy in the long run will be stagnant by vacant jobs due to a lack of development and skills in the workforce.
It’s important to invest at the front end of education at a time when we can successfully prevent obstructions in early growth and development, rather than attempting to fix it midstream when it is too late, or more importantly, when it is too costly.