The Legislature's Education Committee will hold a hearing on LB489 the afternoon of Monday, March 9.
LB489 allows school districts and child care providers to partner to receive grants funded by the Sixpence Early Learning Fund, giving communities another option for closing the achievement gap for our state’s youngest, most at-risk children.
A significant number of children arrive at kindergarten unprepared to learn due to a lack of high-quality developmental experiences during their infant and toddler years. Many school districts lack space, staff and resources to provide full-day services for young children. LB489 overcomes these factors by making child care providers critical partners in local efforts to close the achievement gap. The bill assures communities and funders that child care providers who voluntarily partner with a school district to receive a Sixpence grant will provide high-quality early learning experiences because it requires them to participate in Step Up to Quality, Nebraska's quality improvement and rating system.
Researchers tell us that the most critical time for brain development is from birth to age 3. What happens during these years literally shapes the learning capacity for the rest of a child’s life. It’s a time when their experiences, whether positive or negative, determine how well their brains are wired for future learning and health. Science shows that waiting until a child is 5 years old is too late. The longer we wait to intervene, the wider the achievement gap grows, and the harder and more expensive it is to try to close it.
Several decades of research have led economists, neuroscientists, developmental psychologists, linguists and pediatricians to the same conclusion based on their varied research perspectives: high-quality early learning environments strengthen young children’s cognitive and character skills, particularly when those children are from high-need environments.
Sixpence is an innovative program unique to Nebraska with proven results in helping close the achievement gap between our state’s most at-risk children and their more advantaged peers. Independent evaluations show that at-risk toddlers in Sixpence programs make statistically significant gains in vocabulary skills, a predictor of K-12 success. Children in these programs also show statistically significant improvements in social-emotional skills, a recognized factor for success in the classroom. And, Sixpence yields higher levels of quality parent-child interactions and cognitively stimulating home environments, which are necessary for effective learning in and outside the home.
Senators from across the state support high-quality early childhood efforts in Nebraska, and have advanced and supported early childhood legislation because they understand that it’s the responsible thing to do. Building the capacity of hard-working families to provide the best possible learning experiences for young children is ground on which Nebraskans stand united.