Nebraska Sixpence programs, which serve children prenatal through age 3, will receive a funding boost for the next two years as outlined in the state biennium budget signed by Governor Pete Ricketts today. Sixpence will receive an additional $2.5 million each of the next two years, building on the $5 million in existing annual appropriations from the state General Fund. The biennium budget begins July 1, 2021, and ends June 30, 2023.
The Nebraska Early Childhood Education Endowment Fund, better known as Sixpence, is the state’s signature initiative supporting children’s healthy cognitive, social-emotional and physical development from the prenatal period through age 3. It focuses specifically on the needs of children who are most likely to encounter developmental obstacles early in life.
Sixpence serves about 1,800 children through locally designed and controlled programs that include center-based care, parent coaching and school-child care partnerships. Demand for Sixpence-funded services had grown far beyond the capacity of existing programs even before the pandemic, which has put significant pressure on parents and Nebraska’s early childhood system.
“We are grateful to the Nebraska Legislature for passing a state budget that includes additional funding for the Nebraska Early Childhood Education Endowment Fund which supports Sixpence programs statewide,” said Jason Prokop, director of First Five Nebraska. “Early childhood education is one of the most important and effective investments our state can make. Today’s actions ensure more of Nebraska’s children, families and communities will have access to high-quality early care and learning opportunities.”
Funding preserved for other EC investments
In addition to Sixpence, the budget preserves existing funding for other early childhood investments, including Nebraska Step Up to Quality and the Early Childhood Education Grant Program. Funding for Step Up to Quality, the state’s child care quality rating and improvement system for licensed providers, pays for small quality improvement bonuses and includes dollars earmarked for TEACH scholarships for early childhood professionals. The early childhood education grants help school districts begin or expand classroom-based programs for children from age 3 to when they enter kindergarten.
Appropriations Committee chair State Senator John Stinner (District 48, Gering) proposed the Sixpence funding increase in LB342, saying Sixpence has been an asset to Scotts Bluff County and he hoped other families will be able to benefit from it. LB342 was amended into the mainline appropriations bill, LB380, which senators passed and sent to the Governor on April 20. First Five Nebraska would like to thank Senator Stinner for his leadership, the full legislative body and Governor Ricketts for affirming our state’s commitment to our youngest children’s healthy development, and demonstrating the importance of high-quality early care and learning in building a strong foundation that yields lifelong benefits.