Nebraska Senators advanced the Appropriations Committee’s budget proposal to the next round of debate this week. The Committee’s budget maintains Governor Ricketts’s 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.
Could Lead to Future Increased Costs
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 of failing in school, not receiving the support they need. The small gains obtained from cuts to early care and education are likely to be lost by resulting future increased costs of special education services, grade retention and youth detention/rehabilitation services.
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, First Five Nebraska urges senators to restore these funds in the future to assure we are doing everything possible to prepare Nebraska’s most vulnerable children for success.