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2 Bills Aim to Help Close the Achievement Gap

We know that a significant number of Nebraska’s children arrive at kindergarten unprepared to learn. In fact, more than 64,000 children ages birth-5 are at risk of failing in school. Of these, about 30,000 are infants and toddlers who are not receiving the kinds of early experiences known to support strong brain development during the first three years of life. These children likely will arrive at kindergarten one to two developmental years behind their more advantaged peers, requiring school districts to spend extra resources to help them keep pace in the K-12 system. Sadly, many children who start school behind never catch up. 

Our highest priorities this legislative session are two bills, LB489 and LB547, which together will provide communities with the tools and flexibility needed to provide youngest, most at-risk children with early experiences that are known to close the achievement gap.

LB489, introduced by Senator Kate Sullivan and co-sponsors from across the state (Senators BraschCampbellCookJohnsonKolowskiPansing Brooks and Scheer and Stinner will transform Sixpence, the already successful public-private partnership, to address local community needs by engaging child care providers in Sixpence grants. The bill also strengthens efforts proven to build parents’ abilities as caregivers and educators of their infants and toddlers, which will help them foster the emerging cognitive and character traits children need to succeed in school and beyond. The fiscal impact of LB489 is $0 state funds.

LB547, introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell, leverages existing federal resources to support Sixpence partnerships between school districts and private child care providers. The fiscal impact LB547 is $0 state funds. The bill utilizes about $2 million in existing federal Child Care Development Block Grant funds. A hearing on LB547 before the Health and Human Services Committee is set for February 26.

Together, these bills strengthen efforts to help parents learn how to nurture their young children for success in school and life, and will equip Nebraska communities to reduce the achievement gap in their youngest, most at-risk children before they enter the K-12 system.

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