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Great Public Schools Criteria for Nebraska

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in Nebraska.

Readiness to Learn

Full-day Kindergarten:

Chapter 11. The intent of this Chapter is to encourage schools and community-based organizations to work together to provide high-quality early childhood education programs for infants and young children, which include family involvement. The purposes are also to provide state assistance to selected school districts, cooperatives of school districts, and educational service units for early childhood education, to encourage coordination between public and private service providers of early childhood education and child care programs, to provide state support for efforts to improve training opportunities for staff in such programs, and to provide an approval process for prekindergarten programs established by school boards or educational service units.

Nebraska is among those Midwestern states which saw rapid development of kindergarten early in this century. Only one public school district was not providing kindergarten in 1987, when legislation was enacted to require it. It is also now unusual to find a nonpublic school which does not offer kindergarten and many also provide prekindergarten programs. Although the provision of full day, every day kindergarten is a well-established trend in other states, Nebraska schools were slower to respond. The 1990's did see a dramatic rise in full-day kindergarten. By 2002, approximately one fourth of districts offered full day kindergarten.

Head Start, a federally funded and administered program begun in 1965, provides comprehensive child development services to low income children and their families. In addition to early education, Head Start includes parent involvement and health and social services. Nebraska's 18 Head Start grantees serve approximately 4200 children. While the state has benefited from expansion monies in recent years, many areas of the state are still unserved and estimates are that only about a half of eligible three- and four-year-old children are currently served.

The growth of private-sector child care and preschools has paralleled that of other areas of the country. Few such facilities existed prior to the 1960's, although the first law to regulate child care was passed in 1943. The entree of women into the work force in the latter third of the 20th century spurred the growth of child care centers and family child care in homes. The interest in early learning following the beginning of Head Start created the demand for part day preschools. It is rare to find a child care facility that does not advertise that the program attends to children's early education. Consequently, approximately three-fourths of Nebraska's children participate in some type of group program prior to entering kindergarten. The majority of this early childhood care and education is provided in private-sector child care homes and centers and part-day nurseries/preschools which must meet minimum licensing requirements administered by the Nebraska Department of Social Services.

In 1967, the Legislature amended Section 79-219 R.R.S., to permit school districts to expend local funds to support prekindergarten programs. Several districts did begin programs, most supporting them with federal funds. A few were operated on a fee-for-service basis through school districts' non-profit foundations. In 1987, Section 79-219 R.R.S. was again amended to make it clear that the school district could directly operate a fee-for-service program. Several new school-based prekindergarten programs have started within the past ten years. Again, the funding sources are mixed including fee-for-service, Title 1, Head Start, Even Start, State General Funds, and/or local district funds.

In 1978, the Special Education statutes were amended to require school districts to provide services to children with disabilities from birth or date of diagnosis. Services began in the fall of 1979. The enactment of federal legislation enabling more family centered service approached to families of children with disabilities from birth to age 3 resulted in the passage of the Early Intervention Act in Nebraska in 1993. The Department of Social Service and Education act as co-leads in the administration of the Act. Families of young children with disabilities are thereby able to receive better coordinated and more comprehensive services. (See Nebraska's Early Development Network.)

In 1988, the State Board of Education appointed task forces to develop quality early childhood program guidelines and to advise on program and policy initiatives. These task forces worked closely with the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee Task Force on Quality, Affordable and Accessible Child Care, the body which informed the development of LB 836, the Quality Child Care Act. The State Board of Education strengthened its commitment to services and to quality in November of 1989, when, in response to Goal 1 (Early Childhood) of the National Education Goals, it designated early childhood and parent education as a legislative and programmatic focus into the 90's; this emphasis continues to the present time.

The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant was enacted in the fall of 1990; it required each state to develop a plan for utilization of the allotted funds. The implementation of the federal legislation was guided by the Quality Child Care Act LB 836 enacted in the 1991 Nebraska Legislative Session.

Nebraska's plan for the implementation of the Child Care Development Block Grant complied with the federal regulations by distributing approximately two-thirds of the allotment through vouchers to parents for the purchase of child care services. A new sliding fee schedule was developed by the Department of Social Services to coordinate several child care funding streams and permit low income families to access child care assistance.

The balance of Nebraska's share of the Block Grant has supported quality enhancement efforts through the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education and the early childhood training center. These efforts have included the strengthening of child care licensing, the establishment of a process to recognize quality programs, and the coordination and enhancement of early childhood training efforts. This work has required considerable collaboration among programs and agencies; Nebraska's implementation plan also created several grant funds intended to expand the supply of child care services and to enhance the quality of early childhood care and education through staff development and the strengthening of existing programs.

Nebraska is making modest progress to expand and improve services on behalf of children and their families and to provide support to personnel in early childhood care and education settings. Resources must be found to ensure that all of Nebraska's children have the quality early care and learning settings that will offer them the best chance to reach their greatest potential. To do less is to ignore what we know about the potential of quality programs and services to greatly improve the life chances of children whose families choose to participate.

Source: Overview of Early Childhood Care and Education in Nebraska

NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps

The Nebraska State Education Association plans to use its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps to work to amend the Nebraska constitution to implement a legislative win from the 2006 legislative session that established an early childhood endowment that will fund grants to provide education for children from birth to age five, and create a permanent funding source for early childhood education. NSEA also plans to introduce, lobby, and pass legislation that provides for full-day kindergarten, and legislation to fund three additional contract days for teachers to do curriculum and assessment development, curriculum alignment, or preparation for the beginning of school.