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The Alliance’s lead ally in the Cornhusker state, First Five Nebraska (FFN), works with public and private stakeholders to advance early childhood policies that create educational, social and economic opportunity for all Nebraskans. FFN builds strategic relationships with educators, business leaders, economic developers, state agencies, public officials, and others to develop accountable, cross-sector investments that improve developmental outcomes, address the needs of families with young children, strengthen the professional early childhood workforce, and grow prosperous communities throughout the state.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 34% (79,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 39% (92,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen signed the state’s fiscal 2024- 2025 biennial budget bill on May 24. The two-year budget calls for $15.34 billion in total spending in fiscal 2024 (a 2.7 percent increase from fiscal 2023) and $15.23 billion in total spending in fiscal 2025 (a 0.7 percent decrease from fiscal 2024). General fund spending is estimated at $5.35 billion in fiscal 2024 (a 4.3 percent increase from fiscal 2023) and $5.37 billion in fiscal 2025 (a 0.3 percent increase from fiscal 2024).3

Largest FY 2021 Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers):4

    • Property Taxes: $2,173 per capita
    • Charges: $1,608 per capita

Nebraska uses all major state and local taxes. Charges are public payments connected with a specific government service, such as tuition paid to a state university, payments to a public hospital, or highway tolls. 

Permanent State Funding Stream Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

Nebraska has an early learning endowment called the Sixpence Early Learning Fund. A public-private venture, the fund was established with $20 million from the private sector and a $40 million state investment. The earnings of this combined fund is granted tocommunity partnerships focused on high-quality early learning services for infants and toddlers from traditionally under-resourced communities. Yearly disbursements typically total $2-3 million.

Political Alignment: N/A

Nebraska has a unique, unicameral, nonpartisan legislature. The state’s Governor was a Republican.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Five

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Legislature-Initiated State Statutes – Appear on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated State Statutes – Earn a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in Nebraska.
    • Veto Referenda – When citizens of Nebraska disagree with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, they can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

In spite of a rather contentious and divisive legislation session, advocates were successful in working with state senators to introduce and pass several pieces of legislation that focused on improving maternal health outcomes, alleviating financial pressures on parents and child care providers, and strengthening the availability and access to quality child care.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

First Five Nebraska’s biggest accomplishment was working with a policymaker champion on a series of tax credit programs. LB318, which was eventually amended into LB754, creates the Child Care Tax Credit Act, which offers a refundable credit to qualifying families with children in care and a nonrefundable credit to taxpaying individuals or entities (such as businesses) who make a qualifying contribution to build early childhood infrastructure, with a special emphasis on communities facing significant economic challenges. This bill also reinstates and improves upon the School Readiness Tax Credit Act, which offers a refundable credit to self-employed child care providers and staff, and a nonrefundable credit for programs serving families through the child care subsidy. Thanks in part to First Five Nebraska’s advocacy, the bill passed and was signed by the Governor.

In 2021, the Nebraska Legislature approved LB485, which temporarily increased families’ income eligibility for the child care subsidy from 130% to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Under the original legislation, the income eligibility requirements were scheduled to expire in October 2023. First Five Nebraska worked with policymakers and other advocacy organizations to introduce LB35 (with that bill amended in to LB277), which extends the expiration date to October 2026. LB227 passed and was signed into law on June 6, 2023.   

The Maternal and Child Death Review Team was established to advise the Governor, Legislature and public on policies and practices to better prevent these tragic outcomes. This session, First Five Nebraska worked with a policymaker champion to introduce LB75, which allows this team to collect and analyze data related to severe maternal morbidity. This bill was eventually amended into LB277, which passed.

LB814, the mainline appropriations bill, preserves existing funding streams for early childhood programming. It also allocates $166,199 each fiscal year to the State Patrol’s budget request for two additional staff members to conduct crucial criminal background checks. Advocates spoke up for this legislation, and our hope is that this additional funding to the State Patrol will help process background checks for child care employees more quickly.

First Five Nebraska worked closely with several senators to introduce legislative resolutions for four upcoming interim studies.

    • LR151 will examine the results of the Nebraska Child Care Cost Model developed through the Preschool Development Grant.
    • LR154 will examine Nebraska’s maternal care deserts.
    • LR191 will examine the process for conducting the statutorily required fingerprint-based national criminal history record information check for the child care workforce.
    • LR251 will explore the development of registered apprenticeship program sponsors within Nebraska’s education system for early childhood care and education.

In addition, First Five Nebraska worked with policymakers to introduce LB114, a bill that would increase the existing line item in the state budget for home visiting from $1.1 million to $2 million for FY2023 -24 and FY2024-25. This increase in state funding would have also maximized federal matching funds offered through the MIECHV program. Although LB114 was included in the approved mainline budget bill, the governor issued a line-item veto on the home visiting funding increase, which was not selected for an override attempt by the Legislature. Our goal is to reintroduce this legislation in the next session.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Nebraska, First Five Nebraska, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce


Child and
Maternal Health

Early Intervention

Infant and Child Health

Maternal Health



Home Visiting

Family Economic Security 

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Early Childhood Finance and Cost Modeling

Early Childhood Governance

Data Systems

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.



1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: