Dividends Nebraska is a statewide group of business leaders committed to making early childhood a priority for Nebraska’s public and private investments. We know that high-quality early childhood opportunities, especially for children at risk from birth to age 3, are essential to begin building the skills that will keep Nebraska competitive and growing. Fiscally responsible early childhood investments also support the quality of life Nebraskans desire and need to be productive citizens. As business leaders, we support early childhood investments because they yield high rates of economic, academic and social returns.
Children who experience environments and interactions as infants and toddlers that stimulate skill formation are more likely to excel in school and in life. Before a child starts kindergarten, the brain’s foundation has already become less fluid and has begun to “harden.” As the brain’s foundation solidifies, the acquisition and modification of skills become more difficult.
An opportunity to build a strong neural foundation is missed if a child does not receive positive, brain-building interactions and environments in the first three years. Most funding for children's education and skill development comes too late to capitalize on this early window of opportunity. By waiting to invest in skill development until preschool or Kindergarten, Nebraskans end up spending more to compensate for deficiencies in early skill formation.
When it comes to investments, time can make the biggest difference on the degrees of risk and return. To maximize potential education returns, tax payers need to take full advantage of time. Investments in early childhood maximize the potential returns of skill development which mature overtime.
Neuroscience reveals that the human brain develops the foundation for skills and character traits in the first three years. The brain’s receptiveness to new information and flexibility to adjust connections peaks before a child enters kindergarten. This window of opportunity to develop a solid foundation is short lived and will affect later achievements and successes.
Brain development in the earliest years provides the foundation for emotions, motor skills, language, behavioral control, logic and memory—all essential for success in the classroom and beyond. With repeated use, these fundamentals become more efficient and connect to other areas of the brain more rapidly. Although they originate in specific areas of the brain, the skills are interconnected. You can’t have one type of skill without the others to support it. Like building a house, everything is connected and what comes first forms a foundation for what comes later.
Growing the economy, creating jobs and increasing incomes can only happen with investments in Nebraska’s greatest asset–its people. Present job positions depend upon diverse skill sets and require individuals to collaborate with others outside of their field. This creates an increasing need for individuals with specialized expertise and the social skills to communicate their knowledge with others.
Early investments pay off and they keep paying off. Based on a modern understanding of how skills are formed, we understand there's a dynamic association between the experiences, interactions, and environments of a child’s earliest years and later life success. Data show investments in quality early learning and development programs have substantial payoff.
Nebraska has a national reputation of being fiscally prudent. Nebraskans use common sense to responsibly manage limited resources. One of Nebraska’s greatest resources is its people. Finding qualified, capable people to fill open jobs is also one of our state’s biggest economic challenges.
For continuous economic growth, Nebraskans must find ways to maximize resources with investments that yield substantial and reliable returns. Investments that mitigate state costs over time are also beneficial. Economists and business leaders agree investing in the earliest learning and developmental experiences of children, particularly children at risk, is a smart investment.
The return on investment all starts with quality. Working together, Nebraskans have laid the groundwork for establishing quality guidelines for our youngest citizens. Using research and practice from education and child development experts to inform state policy and programs, public entities, private businesses and philanthropists have collaborated to meet the needs of our youngest citizens. With continued collaboration, Nebraska’s youngest children will experience brain-building activities that place them on the path of success.
When care is consistent, developmentally sound and emotionally supportive, there is a positive effect on the child and the family. A child exposed to a quality environment, whether at home or outside the home, is more likely to be prepared for school demands and less likely to have his or her social-emotional development derailed. A child who does not receive quality care can struggle in school and have a difficult time catching up, if he or she does at all, upon entering the formal education system.