COVID Exacerbates Urgent Need to Prioritize the Early Childhood Workforce in Nebraska
A media release for LR 390 sent out by Sen. John Stinner
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska Legislature is studying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the early childhood workforce as well as the financing requirements needed to ensure a high-quality early childhood system in the state.
Senator John Stinner (District 48), Appropriations Committee chair and member of the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission, introduced Legislative Resolution 390 in July to authorize the study. Today’s hearing at the Capitol featured invited testimony from various experts and stakeholders, including researchers, university and government officials, business leaders, and child care providers. University of Nebraska President Ted Carter led the lineup, which featured recently released survey data and other economic analyses.
“We have the obligation as a committee to set budget and policy decisions that will allow and encourage Nebraska to prosper,” Stinner said. “Child care is foundational to everything this state depends on economically.”
The purpose of LR390 is to assess the fiscal and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nebraska’s early childhood workforce and system, and ensure that the early care and education system is stable enough to support children’s development during and after the pandemic, as well as to support Nebraska families, communities, and businesses in rebuilding the state’s economy.
The foundation for the study resolution is an analysis of Nebraska’s strengths and challenges across all sectors affecting early care and education provided in “Elevating Nebraska’s Early Childhood Workforce: Report and Recommendations of the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission,” released in January. This comprehensive report was developed by a statewide commission of more than 40 public- and private-sector leaders, including Stinner, who spent three years examining the issues and developing consensus recommendations for strengthening and expanding the state’s early childhood workforce.
In Nebraska, 75 percent of children under the age of 6 live in homes where all adults in their family work outside the home. Working parents rely on early childhood professionals─in family child care homes, child care centers, and public and private schools─to provide additional positive interactions and experiences that young children need to thrive and to help prepare them for success in school and life.
Prior to the pandemic, many communities across the state already lacked sufficient and affordable early care and education options. Eleven Nebraska counties had no licensed child care facilities and 91 percent of Nebraska counties lacked sufficient child care slots to meet the needs of families living in the county.
In opening remarks, Stinner emphasized the importance of a data-driven approach to understanding and addressing the state’s early childhood workforce needs. Several research studies and economic analyses are focusing the committee’s attention:
- Two statewide surveys of child care providers conducted by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute during the pandemic provide information on how COVID has affected operations and services. More than half of licensed providers who responded to the survey reported that without financial assistance they will likely close if the pandemic continues or worsens.
- Economic and financial analyses by national experts that have been adapted for Nebraska by the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission provide a phased approach for fully funding the state’s early childhood system and ensuring that every child has access to high-quality early care and education. The analysis is based on child care costs as a percentage of the state’s GDP─an approach regarded as both sensible and strategic given the role of child care as essential infrastructure to the state’s economy.
- Recently released data and analyses conducted by the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and commissioned by First Five Nebraska document that inadequate access to child care costs Nebraska families, businesses, and state tax revenues nearly $745 million annually in direct losses. “The Bottom Line: Economic Impacts of Inadequate Child Care Access in Nebraska” was released last month.
“Nebraska’s workforce needs are urgent and growing. The state will have more than 34,000 annual openings in high-skill, high-demand, high-wage (H3) jobs in the years ahead,” Ted Carter, president of the University of Nebraska, said. “I believe the future of higher education is all about pathways: to college, to relevant internships and academic experiences, to timely graduation, to great jobs here in Nebraska. And every one of those pathways begins in the earliest years.”
As part of the legislative study, Stinner is also inviting Nebraska parents and business owners to share their experiences regarding child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses will be included in the LR390 interim study final report that is due in December. The survey can be found at nechildcaresurvey.com/covid.
In addition to Carter, those offering testimony at today’s hearing included: Marjorie Kostelnik, Co-Chair, Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission; Cathey Huddleston-Casas, Associate Director of Workforce Planning and Development, Buffett Early Childhood Institute; Elizabeth Everett, Deputy Director and Public Policy Manager, First Five Nebraska; Stephanie Beasley, Director, Division of Children and Family Services, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services; Kathleen Gallagher, Director of Research and Evaluation, Buffett Early Childhood Institute; Mariah Stowe, Owner/Operator, Splash of Color Child Care, Lincoln; and Diane Temme, Chief Administrative Officer, Total Manufacturing Company (TMCO), Lincoln.