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Campaign hopes to build support for early childhood education in Nebraska | Education


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Lindsey Jarecki and her husband moved to their hometown of Albion about a decade ago to open a law practice and raise their family.

After making the move, the couple quickly faced the harsh reality that there were no available child care spots where they now lived.

That meant Jarecki, a former Elkhorn Public Schools teacher, could not return to the classroom.

“We found ourselves frustrated, along with many other parents in our community over the lack of available care,” Jarecki said.


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Jarecki, along with leaders from across Nebraska, joined together Wednesday to announce the launch of “We Care for Kids,” a community-based campaign intended to build support for quality early childhood care and education in the state.

The campaign is also being launched in Spanish as For all children.

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The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska is coordinating the campaign along with organizations from across the state.

“We believe the first eight years of life are crucial for building our state’s future and present wellbeing,” said Samuel Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Meisels said the new campaign will serve as a platform not only to spread awareness of early childhood education but to encourage communities to look at their own needs, support educators and expand access.

In the case of Albion, Jarecki said the town’s leaders realized that in order to keep and attract families they needed high quality child care. In recent years, the town has supported and expanded its in-home provider network, started an after-school program and opened Boone Beginnings, an early childhood facility that can serve up to 80 children.

Jarecki said the “We Care for Kids” campaign is a reflection of the work happening in many communities and is a “commitment of hope” that work will continue throughout urban and rural parts of the state to address child care shortages.

According to the Buffett Institute, 91% of counties in Nebraska with child care facilities do not have enough available slots to meet current demand. And 12 counties in Nebraska have no licensed child care facilities.

Although shortages existed prior to the pandemic, the Buffett Institute has done surveys and produced reports to examine the pandemic’s impact on Nebraska’s child care professionals.

The latest report found that early childhood providers have experienced income reductions, rampant staff turnover, difficulty hiring staff and an inability to offer sufficient pay. As a result, many child care providers have been struggling mentally, physically and financially.

Leaders from around Nebraska like state Sen. John Stinner of Gering, the Appropriations Committee chairman, and University of Nebraska President Ted Carter both spoke about the importance of early childhood education Wednesday.

Carter called it a workforce and quality of life issue and said Nebraska’s public university system can’t afford to not be engaged in early childhood. He said when children have a happy and healthy start to life they are set up to succeed down the road.

“We want every young Nebraskan to have a healthy childhood, a good education, a thriving career and a meaningful life,” Carter said. “And that starts with strong families and access to quality early childhood education.”

The new We Care for Kids website provides early childhood resources for families including an ability to search for programs in their communities. Visit the site in English at nebraskacaresforkids.org and in Spanish at Portodoslosninos.org.

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