Start Early. Start well.

July 17, 2023

New Reports From Buffett Institute Offer In-Depth Look at How Nebraska Funds Child Care

Two new reports from the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska detail how much Nebraska invests in early childhood education, illuminating an intricate and often fragmented flow of funding sources.

Nebraska’s Public Investment in Early Childhood Care and Education, Fiscal Year 2019 and 2021 Technical Reports are authored by Cathey Huddleston-Casas, the Buffett Institute’s associate director of workforce planning and development, and policy consultant Jen Goettemoeller Wendl. 

The reports trace the federal and state sources that fund Nebraska’s early care and education system and build off Nebraska’s Public Investment in Early Childhood Care and Education: Fiscal Year 2017

“The goal of our research was to provide information that is useful to policymakers in understanding the sometimes complicated ways in which funds flow through our government,” said Huddleston-Casas. “It shows a system that has evolved incrementally—a result of policymakers trying to meet the needs of young children over time. There is clear potential for the state to better align systems to ensure that critically needed investments in early childhood care and education flow more readily to the child care providers who serve Nebraska's young children and their families every day.”

Among the findings: 
For FY 2021, the federal and state combined contribution to early care and education in Nebraska was $201.7 million. For FY 2019, federal and state contributions totaled $191.5 million, compared to $211.4 million in FY 2017.
Federal dollars comprised more than half the total public contribution in FY 2021 ($120.8 million) and state dollars ($80.9 million) made up the rest.
A total of 13 state and federal finance mechanisms deliver early childhood funding in Nebraska. Funds from three federal agencies and three state revenue sources flow through seven different offices of two state agencies—the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Department of Education—and reflect the inherent complexity and fragmentation of funding for the early childhood system. 
Huddleston-Casas and Goettemoeller Wendl’s research into state and federal budgets establishes a much-needed, multi-year record of Nebraska’s public investment into early childhood care and education.

“We have a record of the level at which Nebraska has invested in early childhood and where those dollars have gone over time. This gives us a better understanding of how changes in fiscal policy will impact the system,” said Huddleston-Casas. “At a time when national organizations like the Bipartisan Policy Center are ringing alarm bells about the impending funding cliff to be absorbed by states upon the upcoming expiration of emergency funds, Nebraska will have the critical information provided by the research in these reports at hand.”

Huddleston-Casas and Goettemoeller Wendl previously studied funding for the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission, which called for Nebraska’s early childhood system to be fully funded by 2030. The commission sought to understand the gap between what it costs to support high-quality early care and education and the level at which Nebraska’s system is currently funded. 

These two most recent reports continue to provide a public policy road map so Nebraska and national policymakers and researchers can examine education spending and the implications of how it is disseminated through the early childhood education system.  

To read the full reports, visit here.  
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