The Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee included an additional $3.7 million in funding for schools in its mid-biennium budget released today. The allocation is to provide early childhood opportunities that close the achievement gap for children at risk of failing in school. The budget also includes $400,000 to equip parents, child care providers and preschool teachers with a better understanding of social emotional development in young children so they can help them succeed in school, make good life choices and build healthy relationships.
New U.S. Census Bureau estimates reveal that 41 percent of Nebraska’s children age 0-5 are at risk of failing in school. The total number of these children in Nebraska is 62,287. Nearly 50 percent of them reside in rural Nebraska.
The funding is a wise use of taxpayer dollars that will help secure a strong return on investment. University of Nebraska researchers recently performed a benefit-cost analysis of high-quality early childhood education opportunities in Nebraska, finding a benefit-cost ratio of 2.5:1. This means that for every $1 invested in high-quality early childhood opportunities, Nebraska accrues $2.50 in benefits, such as reduced special education costs and higher graduation rates.
Given the significant impact the additional budget allocation will have on at-risk children statewide, and the overwhelming economic benefits the funding will provide for our state, we applaud the Committee’s continued recognition that early childhood is a solid investment, and urge their colleagues to support it.