Economic research indicates that investing in high quality early childhood opportunities is an effective way of offsetting more costly programs and services later in children's lives. Yet, Nebraska's investment in early childhood lags far behind expenditures in areas such as special education, behavioral health and correctional services.
The long-term social and economic viability of any state is a reflection of how it values and develops its human capital. The quality of life and economic opportunity we wish to see in Nebraska are built upon our ability to attract commerce and industry, expand and retain a skilled workforce, and create strong, safe and healthy communities for our citizens. The foundation for each of these outcomes directly relates the way we cultivate the coming generations of Nebraskans, and the best way to do so is by setting Nebraska’s youngest children on the path to lifelong achievement and success.
Currently, however, Nebraska faces serious challenges to this goal. Fully one-third of our youngest children are subject to risk factors that threaten their ability to thrive in school and beyond. These children can be found in every county throughout the state, and although the greatest concentrations occur in metropolitan areas, Nebraska's rural counties are showing the greatest increase in their at-risk populations of children 0 to 5 years of age.
Where are Nebraska's Youngest, At-Risk Citizens?
Click here to view and download information on our state's children at risk between the ages of 0 and 5 on a legislative district-by-district basis.
Public expenditures on special and remedial education, behavioral health, criminal justice and corrections, and public assistance services far exceed what we invest in early childhood programs. Despite these expenditures, far too many of our citizens end up lacking the qualities of character and competency that would have enabled them to raise the overall value of our workforce, build their individual earning potential, and take their place as self-sufficient, contributing members of their communities.
Helping Nebraska’s parents provide quality early care and learning opportunities for their children is critical to Nebraska’s future. Investing early can yield short-term results by offsetting the need for costly and largely ineffective remedial and correctional services, and reducing our citizens’ reliance upon public assistance. In the long term, investing early grows and perpetuates our fund of human capital, making us stronger, safer and more competitive both as a state, and as a nation.
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