Child care funding guidelines amended, advanced

Senators gave first-round approval May 12 to a bill that would provide funding guidelines for child care grants.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, sponsor of LB547, said the bill would encourage partnerships between private child care providers and school districts through grant funding.

Nebraska should invest more in quality early childhood development, Campbell said, which sets the stage for an individual’s preparedness for educational and occupational opportunities throughout their life.

“In future years, we need to have the best educated, best prepared workforce that we can put together,” she said.

As introduced, LB547 would allocate federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds to the Early Childhood Education Endowment Cash Fund—commonly known as Sixpence—to support local early childhood partnerships that include licensed child care providers.

The bill amends the Quality Child Care Act relating to CCDBG and sets a funding schedule according to federal reauthorization amounts.

Campbell said the federal government previously required states to spend a minimum of 4 percent of CCDBG funds on efforts that improve the quality of licensed child care. In 2014, the program’s reauthorization increased that minimum to 7 percent in fiscal year 2015-16, 8 percent in FY2017-18, and 9 percent in FY2019-20 and subsequent years.

The reauthorization also will require states to spend a minimum of 3 percent of their federal CCDBG funds to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers, Campbell said.

A Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 32-0, would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to allocate these higher required minimum percentages to early childhood education programs. Funds would be split between Sixpence and incentives and support for programs under the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act.

The amendment also incorporates LB489, introduced by Cedar Rapids Sen. Kate Sullivan, which would expand eligibility for Sixpence grants to early childhood education programs and school districts if the child care provider enrolls in the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act system prior to the grant period.

Child care providers also would be required to submit to training approved by the Early Childhood Training Center.

Programs receiving grants would be required to obtain a rating of step three or higher on the quality scale within three years of the start date of the initial grant program and maintain that rating to continue to receive funding.

Any school district entering into agreements with child care providers under the bill would be required to employ or contract with a program coordinator who holds a certificate.

Sullivan said allowing child care providers to partner with school districts would provide more children with full-day, year-round quality child care. The result, she said, would be more children arriving at kindergarten prepared to learn.

“LB489, as incorporated into this amendment, gives communities another option for closing the achievement gap for Nebraska’s youngest and most at-risk children,” Sullivan said.

An amendment offered by Campbell, adopted 31-0, made technical adjustments and became the bill. Following its adoption, senators voted 34-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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