by Sarah Ann Kotchian, Vice President of Education and Early Childhood Policy
Building access to high-quality early childhood care and education is a goal shared by advocates, lawmakers and business sectors alike. Research continues to affirm that closing the achievement gap and building and future workforce starts in early childhood. In recent years, Nebraska has taken great strides in creating Step Up to Quality and the School Readiness Tax Credits.
This week, Nebraska Step Up to Quality published the first child care provider ratings based on quality standards. Unlike child care licensing which only provides minimal health and safety standards for programs, Step Up to Quality provides parents and child care providers a method to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in child care and school-age settings.
The work to get her began in earnest in 2008 with the first field test of a quality rating and improvement system in Nebraska. Based on these efforts, Step Up to Quality was ultimately established through the passage of legislation in 2013 through ground-breaking collaborative work by the Nebraska Legislature, the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and child advocates.
When we gathered around the table in 2013 to draft the original legislation for Step Up to Quality, we knew we were embarking on a new way of doing early childhood business in Nebraska. We were effectively changing the playing field for families to access quality early childhood care and education and to support child care providers in their ability to provide high quality care.
The original intent of the legislation introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell and prioritized by Senator Kate Bolz, was to target investment in child care programs to increase access to high quality care for all of Nebraska's children, beginning with children from low-income families served through our child care assistance program. We wanted to ensure accountability for the important public investment in programs serving children and families facing the greatest economic barriers as effectively as possible to support quality early childhood care and education.
About the Ratings:
Providers earn higher quality ratings as they meet more standards based upon a clear set of guidelines and measures. Families can use Step Up to Quality ratings to find child care providers working to achieve these quality standards. QRIS ratings are one tool parents can use to narrow down their child care choices and make an informed decision about providers striving to promote and provide quality child care that goes beyond basic licensure. Providers are rewarded for their participation through financial incentives and supports to help ensure sustained quality care.
Visit the Step Up to Quality website to view the ratings and download a list of programs in towns across Nebraska.