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Little boy crawls through a city garden to inspect nature

High-Quality Early Childhood Education Matters: Nebraskans Know It, Now Congress Acknowledges It Too

When kids get to be kids—explore their environment, interact with their parents and caregivers, and learn through play—they flourish with curiosity and happiness. Like the little boy in the picture who is peeking for ducks, flowers and maybe even a frog as he explores the National Garden at the U.S. Capitol, children enjoy and grow in environments that are safe and full of enriching educational opportunities. We know this anecdotally. Science also tells us that neurologically these interactions and opportunities build the brain architecture that affects learning capacity and the ability to regulate emotions for the rest of the child’s life. Positive environments beget positive experiences, which in turn have positive results for kids.

These environments, experiences and results are evident for children at home with parents and for those with other caregivers. In Nebraska, we definitely know this to be true. As a state, we have lots of great educational opportunities for kids and their families, and some great programs for those in child care. The Sixpence Early Learning Fund, for example, created by the Nebraska Legislature in 2006, funds high-quality educational programs that have been shown to close the achievement gap for children at risk of failing in school.

What works in Nebraska—high-quality early childhood  education—is now being debated in Congress. This is great news for kids across the country, and if signed into law, the benefits will reach even more Nebraska children at risk of failing in school. For the first time in nearly two decades, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill to reauthorize funds for child care investments and they included high-quality early learning as a requisite component. In fact, S.1086 “reinforce[s] parental and family choice in determining the best setting for children while also placing a renewed focus on the quality of care.” This particular commitment to quality from the U.S. Senate is unprecedented and remarkable because it demonstrates an understanding that the quality of care children receive during their earliest years positively alters the trajectory of their lives. First Five Nebraska thanks Senators Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer for joining 94 of their colleagues in voting to pass this legislation.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. Its first hearing will be 9 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, in the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. The hearing can be streamed live here. Please, sign-up to receive updates from First Five Nebraska on the progress of this and other important legislation. We’ll keep you informed on efforts to bolster the high-quality early childhood experiences that we all know benefit kids.

Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol

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