News from First Five Nebraska
March 2018


Our vision is that all Nebraska children begin kindergarten with the experience they need to become successful students and productive citizens.  


As Senators continue to struggle over the budget bill, a large number of bills have yet to be considered.  Of the  bills prioritized either by Senators or committees, more than 50 remain on General File waiting to be heard by the full Legislature for the first time, and 20 are still in committee. 

Our website's Nebraska Legislation page makes it easy to monitor the status of bills affecting early childhood, and to search across 10 categories:
Budget/Taxes, Child Care, Child Safety, Child Welfare, Early Childhood Workforce, Economic Assistance/Public Benefits, Education, Physical & Mental Health, School Funding and Systems/ Governance.

Quick Links
  • The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has debuted a new user-friendly Child Care web page with information and resources for parents, providers and communities. 
  • A research paper by UNL's Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS) was named 2017 Article of the Year by the Journal of School Psychology. CYFS  researchers found that strong parent-teacher ties generated positive outcomes for children in rural communities in both student behavior and academic skills. Read More
  • UNL Extension offers short, weekly texts with informational tips and links to existing resources in the critical areas of child development, family involvement, curriculum and activities, health and social-emotional development. Learn More

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Nebraska Senators Advance Budget Bill with Cuts to Early Childhood Programs

On March 23, Nebraska Senators failed to reach cloture on the Appropriations Committee's budget proposal, which maintains Governor Ricketts' suggested 2% and 4% cuts to early childhood programs over the next two fiscal years. This would result in a funding decrease of $527,301 to early childhood programs and initiatives supported by the state's General Fund, specifically, the Sixpence Early Learning Fund (which serves children ages 0-3), Early Childhood Education Grant Program (serving ages 3-5) and Step Up to Quality scholarships and incentives. As of March 27, the Legislature has 11 working days left this session to pass the budget.  
Although we acknowledge the current challenging fiscal environment and the need to balance the state budget, we are disappointed that these cuts could result in some children, especially those most at risk, not receiving the support they need. These cuts likely will lead to future increased costs in special education services, grade retention and other remediation efforts. 
Early childhood education is the best investment we can make to ensure young Nebraskans grow up well-educated, skilled and prepared to thrive as productive adults. Although it appears the Legislature will pass the proposed budget, including the early childhood cuts, we urge senators to restore these funds in the future to assure we are doing everything possible to prepare Nebraska's most vulnerable children for success.
T he Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission 
held  its first meeting of 2018 in Lincoln this month. The Commission, made up of about 40 public- and  private-
sector leaders from  around the state, is working toward d eveloping  a comprehensive plan for expanding and strengthening the state's early childhood workforce. FFN Director Becky Veak serves on the  Commission.  Learn More

We're pleased to introduce Adam Feser who has joined our staff as Policy Associate. Most recently, Adam served as Executive Director for Advocacy Partnership for People with Special Needs.

There he worked on policies promoting the inclusion, rights and autonomy of people with disabilities. Adam became interested in early childhood policy in part through seeing how early interventions can have a major impact on the lives of young children. 

Brain Awareness Week is an annual opportunity to focus on how early experiences impact a child's emerging brain architecture, what can derail healthy neural development and what this means for academic and personal success over a lifetime. 

Building brain architecture : specific kinds of interactions with parents and caregivers literally build healthy brains during children's earliest years. 

Many Nebraska children from birth through age 5 face risk factors that can hinder brain growth and affect their ability to develop essential cognitive and social-emotional skills. 

The core capabilities that allow us to navigate through life successfully are rooted in healthy brain development when trillions of brain connections are made and strengthened through quality early experiences. A new, short video by the Harvard Center on the Developing Child shows why these skills are so important and what can cause development to go off course

Unmitigated stress in a young child's life, such as an unstable home or serious neglect, can physically disrupt brain development by putting the body into a chronic state of alert, causing high levels of stress hormones to be released. Children exposed to toxic stress experience delays in cognitive and social-emotional development. A short video shows how effective interventions can change the life trajectory of a neglected child